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Trump Is Still a Fan of Stop and Frisk. But Does It Work?

President Trump on Monday echoed arguments from his campaign, but his information seems outdated.
Police investigate a scene where two people were shot on July 16th, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois.

Police investigate a scene where two people were shot on July 16th, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois.

Speaking at the annual convention for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, President Donald Trump said there's a "terrible shooting wave" happening in Chicago. In response, he said, he has directed the attorney general's office to go to Chicago and try and undo an agreement, between the police and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, to reform the city's use of stop and frisk. Critics say the technique violates people's civil rights and that officers stop people of color with unfair frequency. In 2013, a district judge ruled that New York City's police resorted to "indirect racial profiling" during their stop-and-frisk program, and ruled it unconstitutional. At the time the Chicago police entered its agreement with the Illinois ACLU, the advocacy group had found Chicago police were using stop and frisk at four times the rate of their New York peers at the time that New York City was forced to stop.

Stop and frisk "works and it was meant for problems like Chicago," Trump said. The speech echoed themes from Trump's campaign, and from remarks by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, earlier this year, criticized the same Chicago agreement as leading to more homicides.

Does stop and frisk work to prevent shootings and other crimes? Here at Pacific Standard, we've covered the research behind the technique a lot. Below are a few lessons we've learned.

  • Reducing stop and frisk doesn't necessarily lead to more crime. As we reported in May:

New York City's 2014 requirements corresponded with a steady murder rate and a decrease in crime. Philadelphia's similar settlement on stop-and-frisk in 2011 corresponded with a decrease in its homicide rate. Seattle's consent decree has included stop-and-frisk provisions since 2012, and the city's yearly homicide rate has remained mostly steady in the years since.

  • Some studies have found stop and frisk does reduce crime, but worsens community relations. Whether that's a tradeoff cities should make depends on who you ask. There are other options: Researchers have found other strategies with good evidence behind them that don't cause community resentment.
  • Chicago doesn't actually seem to be suffering from a "terrible shooting wave" right now. Chicago police recently said there were 102 fewer homicides and almost 500 fewer shooting victims in the city in 2018 so far, compared to the same span of the year in 2017, the Associated Press reports.