A New York Civil Liberties Union analysis of police department data has found that as the number of police stops has risen dramatically, the number of weapons recovered has stayed practically the same.
The analysis of 2011 stop, question and frisk numbers was made public Tuesday.
It worked from the department's database and included the neighborhoods most often stopped, and the number of weapons recovered.
Last year, more than 685,000 people were stopped by police, mostly black and Hispanic men. There were 780 guns recovered. In 2003, the department recovered 604 and stopped 160,851 people.
Many critics have said the police department is unfairly targeting minorities. More young black men were stopped and frisked by police last year than actually live in the city, according to the report from the civil liberties group.
"We in the city are in the throes of a full-on civil rights crisis," said Donna Lieberman, head of the NYCLU.
Overall, blacks and Hispanics make up 87 percent of those stopped, while whites make up 9 percent. Of the 8.1 million people in New York, about half are black and Hispanic, while 33 percent are white, according to data from the 2010 American Community Survey.
The department says it goes after crime, not individuals, and the tactic is a necessary tool that saves lives. Paul Browne, chief NYPD spokesman, pointed to historic lows in crime as evidence the tactic works.
"If history is a guide, the vast majority of those lives saved were young men of color," Browne wrote. "Last year, 96 percent of all shooting victims in New York were black or Hispanic, as were over 90 percent of murder victims."
The department also says the tactic gets guns off the street. Last year, 780 guns were recovered — or one gun per 879 people stopped. In 2003, police recovered 604 guns, or about one per 266 people stopped. It's not enough to justify the negative impact the policy is having on community members, Lieberman said.
It's the abuse of the practice — not the practice itself — that is being questioned, city officials have said. And the policy is increasingly in the limelight ahead of the 2013 mayoral race.
Public advocate Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced a campaign to pressure Mayor Bloomberg to reform the practice. De Blasio said the mayor should require police brass to keep close watch and make sure unwarranted stops aren't occurring.
"We know it is impossible to have real, lasting security if there is a rift between the community and the police," de Blasio said. "A rift has begun to develop."
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