The Outstater

January 18, 2023

Stopping and Frisking Saves Lives

AS COMPLICATED as democracy is, you can clearly see it working in Marion County. You can tell by the high murder rate. Marion voters, the reasons for which they are quite proud, have decided to elect a mayor and prosecuting attorney who demonstrate their social compassion by abiding homicide.

Not everywhere, of course. There are two places in Marion County — that place and the other place. The murders are concentrated in a small part of that place, in one or two zip codes, actually, and perhaps within only a dozen square blocks.

In the other place nobody gets murdered much at all. The citizens there like to be called progressive. Their votes may ensure that the citizens in that place, alas, get murdered in record numbers but are respected for just who they are. The mayor and the prosecutor live in the other place (again, democracy is complicated).

It was mentioned earlier that the murders are concentrated. That raises the question of why police don’t concentrate as well. Indeed, a new study suggests that the mayor and the prosecutor should order exactly that.

The Crime Prevention Research Center reported yesterday that some 73 percent of all murders in the U.S. take place in just 5 percent of counties, with Marion County being in the top 10. Fifty-two percent of all counties report no murders at all.

“Murder isn’t a nationwide problem,” the study found. “It’s a problem in a small set of urban areas and even in those counties murders are concentrated in small areas inside them, and any solution must reduce those murders.”

That solution is no mystery. It was worked out in New York City beginning in the Giuliani administration. It is called a “Terry Stop” after the 1968 Supreme Court ruling in Terry vs. Ohio. The Court found that police should have the power to search, even without probable cause, to protect themselves from weapons. The Terry Stop operates under the assumption that although stop-and-frisk is an intrusion the potential harm from weapons outweighs it.

That flies in the face of current racism narratives, but at some point it must be acknowledged that we are not having a discussion over lunch in the faculty lounge. Rather, this is a matter of life and death. Here is Heather McDonald of the Manhattan Institute:

“Proactive police stops are among the most effective crime-fighting tools that cops on the beat have. The New York Police Department’s use of the tactic helped bring the city’s homicide rate down another 50 percent during (Mayor Mike) Bloomberg’s tenure in office from 2002 to 2013, something few criminologists believed possible. Sixteen hundred minority lives were saved in the process.” 

And in the case of a smaller city like Indianapolis, the murder rate also could be dramatically lowered by stationing police in statistically selected urban blocks. Modern crime data is that good.

Still, as it were and if you will, the mayor and prosecutor aren’t going to do any of that — not at least to an effective degree. At the risk of seeming cynical, maybe the murder rate isn’t high enough yet in that place to kill off the margin of voters they need for reelection (democracy is very complicated).

It could be worse. The Washington D.C. City Council yesterday overrode a veto in order to lower its crime rate by declassifying most serious crime.

In such calculations, the voters not yet murdered in that place would not be as important as the voters in the other place, who imagine those in that place are children and enforcing the law would hurt their feelings.

Democracy, once more, is very, very complicated — inscrutable, some think. — tcl


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