Data Science Summer School 2014 - An Empirical Analysis of Stop-and-Frisk in New York City

Speaker  Siobhan Wilmot-­Dunbar, Derek Sanz, Md.Afzal Hossain, and Khanna Pugach

Affiliation  Pace University, CUNY Brooklyn College, New York City College of Technology, Bernard M. Baruch College

Host  Sharad Goel

Duration  00:19:22

Date recorded  7 August 2014

Between 2006 and 2012, the New York City Police Department made roughly four million stops as part of the city's controversial stop-and-frisk program. We empirically study two aspects of the program by analyzing a large public dataset released by the police department that records all documented stops in the city. First, by comparing to block-level census data, we estimate stop rates for various demographic subgroups of the population. In particular, we find, somewhat remarkably, that the average annual number of stops of young, black men exceeds the number of such individuals in the general population. This disparity is even more pronounced when we account for geography, with the number of stops of young black men in certain neighborhoods several times greater than their number in the local population. Second, we statistically analyze the reasons recorded in our data that officers state for making each stop (e.g., "furtive movements" or "sights and sounds of criminal activity"). By comparing which stated reasons best predict whether a suspect is ultimately arrested, we develop simple heuristics to aid officers in making better stop decisions. We believe our results will help both the general population and the police department better understand the burden of stop-and-frisk on certain subgroups of the population, and that the guidelines we have developed will help improve stop-and-frisk programs in New York City and across the country.

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