“We put all the cops in minority neighborhoods . . . Because that’s where all the crime is.” With the hullabaloo over Michael Bloomberg’s claims about high minority crime rates in New York City, why not go to the data? According to the city’s police department, 93 percent of all suspects arrested for murder in 2019 were black or Hispanic, as were 86 percent of those arrested for rape, 92 percent for robbery, 85 percent for felonious assault, and 96 percent for shootings.
Are police systematically arresting non-whites under lower standards of evidence? It seems unlikely. For one thing, a majority of New York City police are themselves non-white. Second, the racial victimization rates generally align with the arrest rates. Blacks were 57 percent of murder victims — a crime known to be committed mostly within racial groups — and blacks were an almost-identical 58 percent of those arrested for murder. Outside of murder, the race of suspects is determined in part by victim reports, and the racial breakdown of suspects again correlates well with the racial breakdown of those arrested. For example, blacks were 74 percent of shooting suspects and 72 percent of shooting arrestees.
Having an accurate statistical profile of victims and perpetrators is a prerequisite for effective law enforcement. Dismissing those statistics as “racist” is not helpful to anyone. Granted, Mayor Bloomberg presided over an aggressive form of policing that raised difficult legal and ethical questions. I don’t purport to resolve them all here. Still, these shouts of “racism!” tend to distract from the reality on the ground. When 14-year-old Aamir Griffin was tragically killed by a stray bullet in Queens last fall, I am not aware of anyone who said the problem was too many police officers in the neighborhood. I am not aware of anyone who said that the gang members who shot him wouldn’t have done so if only they were stopped-and-frisked less often. When confronted with incidents like this one, our indignation about aggressive cops no longer feels so self-satisfying.