Report: Racial gap in subway stops

February 17, 2008 11:31:05 AM PST
Almost 9 in 10 subway riders stopped and questioned by police are black or Hispanic, although the two groups together represent just under half the ridership, a newspaper reported Sunday. Some 35.5 percent of straphangers are white, but whites made up only 8.1 percent of the riders stopped last year, the Daily News reported. Blacks and Hispanics together comprised 49 percent of riders, but 88.3 percent of the stops, according to the newspaper.

Police stopped almost 11 times as many blacks and Hispanics as whites last year - 23,909, compared to 2,186, the Daily News said.

The data echo statistics on police stops aboveground. In recent years, blacks and Hispanics have made up a greater share of those stopped on the streets than their percentage of the general population.

Minority advocates and civil rights groups have said the so-called street "stop-and-frisks" amount to racial profiling. The New York Police Department has denied it, saying officers are working off descriptions of crime suspects, a sizable majority of whom are described as black or Hispanic by victims or witnesses. RAND Corp. researchers said last year they found only "small racial differences in the rates of frisk, search, use of force and arrest" by the NYPD.

Only 16.4 percent of last year's subway stops were classified as targeting people who fit suspects' description - a number that undermines the department's claims about its rationale, critics say.

It "confirms what many of us have been saying - that race is the reason many people are stopped," said Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "Officers make stops based on reasonable suspicion, and the numbers reflect the times, places and circumstances where those observations take place."

The number of police stops in subways has shot up from an average of 7.6 per day in 2004 to an average of 74.2 per day last year, while the average number of subway crimes per day dropped from nine to six, the Daily News said.

Browne said the rising number of stops reflects enforcement of new regulations against such practices as riding between cars, and the stops have helped reduce crime.


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