Stop and frisk and similar laws may actually do more to create crime than they do to prevent it. At least, this is what a recent study from the University of Missouri in St. Louis has come to find.
Law enforcement agencies like the New York Police Department have become known for their use of controversial tactics like search and frisk. Stop and frisk is the act of police searching people considered suspicious or possibly dangerous on the street.
Police tactics like these have long been believed to be successful in discouraging people from criminal activity. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended stop and frisk, saying that it has lead to a decrease in murder. But as Wall Street Journal points out, this may be misleading — murder was already in a decline before 2003 when stop and frisk was put in place.
The benefits of stop and frisk are thrown into further doubt with a recent study on the policy. Researchers followed nearly 2,600 students from seven cities, all a part of gang prevention program in school.
During the program, between 2006 and 2013, researchers saw some teens stopped or arrested by police and others who had not, reports Time. Even after adjusting for factors like race, age, prior delinquency, and more, the study revealed some fascinating results.
They found that, by the end of the study, those who were stopped by police early in the study period committed an average of five more delinquent acts, than those who had not. This included skipping school, selling or doing drugs, or violent assaults. And those who were arrested for any reason were found to be involved in 15 more delinquent offenses than those who weren’t, on average.
That’s not all. As one researcher points out, being stopped didn’t just change rates of delinquency, it changed attitudes as well. Those who were stopped were less likely to feel guilty about committing crimes in the future.
Stop and frisk may have debatable short term benefits. However, in the long run, treating people like criminals will turn them into criminals, according to this study. Researchers hope these new findings will help encourage a healthy debate about controversial stop and frisk laws.