Despite criticism about aggressive policing, New York City police officers stopped more people on the streets during the first three months of 2008 than during any quarter in the six years, reports the New York Times. The 145,098 “stop-and-frisks” from January through March – up from 134,029 during the same quarter a year earlier – led to 8,711 arrests and put the Bloomberg administration on course for the highest annual total. The numbers also reflect an increased reliance on a practice that has become an emotional flashpoint, particularly after the fatal police shooting of Sean Bell in 2006.
Street stops have gradually increased, to 508,540 in 2006 from 97,296 in 2002, according to departmental statistics. Because more than half of those stopped were black, the increases led some police critics to suggest that minorities were being unfairly singled out, though the police reject such claims. To police officials, the practice of stopping civilians on the streets, to question and search them – sometimes looking for illegal guns – is just one of many crime-suppression tactics. The increased number shows that the department is standing by its strategy as a worthy practice, people in and outside of city government said.