Stop-And-Frisk Is Not the Answer to East Harlem’s Violence Problem

June 11, 2015 | Liam Mathews

Gun violence is a serious problem all over the city, but the East River Houses in Harlem have been hit particularly hard by the recent rise in shootings. According to ABC7, three shootings have killed two people in the past week. In this climate, it is totally understandable are scared and looking for solutions. But at a rally on Wednesday covered by ABC, people were advocating for the return of stop-and-frisk, which is not the answer.

ABC’s report does not mention the size of the rally, but judging by the tight shots of individuals that make up the video and the fact that ABC only spoke with one civilian couple who attended the march, the rally was small. Smaller than this anti-stop-and-frisk march from 2012, for example. One of the people interviewed, Nathaniel Davis, told ABC that he thinks the city is more dangerous now for his 3-year-old son than it was for his kids he raised in the ’80s.

“My other kids they made it. They made it. By the grace of God they made it. My son, it’s a different time,” he said. He would be wrong if he lived in a different part of New York City, but East Harlem has confounded downward trends in violence for years. So far this year shootings in East Harlem are up 500%. There’s a serious problem in the neighborhood. But Rev. Sean Gardner and community activist Tony Herbert’s rhetoric about the problem is misguided. Their community is in pain, but stop-and-frisk isn’t going to make it better. Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work.

“I can’t tell you what mother I’ve not come across who lost a loved one to gun violence who is not sitting here advocating for ‘stop-and-frisk’ to come back. It’s a catch 22. It’s a serious catch 22 in our community,” said Tony Herbert. I’m not certain I believe Tony Herbert. Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work.

“Why is there not an outcry that the shootings have gone up the way that they have? Why are there no marchers? Why are there no protests? Is it just police shootings that we turn the streets upside down?” Rev. Sean Gardner said. There is outcry. He’s at a rally (a small rally, but still a rally) protesting the violence. No one is pro-more shootings. But when people who are not cops shoot people, they get prosecuted if they’re caught. People protest police shootings because the police are not held accountable for shooting people. Apples and oranges.

Whatever the solution to East Harlem’s tragic violence problem may be, appealing to the police to bring back stop-and-frisk is not it. Violence will continue, except now even more civil rights will be violated and even more young people of color will be caught up in the system.

(Photo: Herve Boinay)