For City’s Teens, Stop-and-Frisk Is Black And White

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One in five people stopped last year by the New York City police department was a teenager between the ages of 14 and 18, according to a WNYC analysis of recently released police data.

Eighty-six percent of those teenagers who were stopped were either black or Latino, most of them boys. 

Last year, there were more than 120,000 stops of black and Latino kids between 14 and 18. The total number of black and Latino boys that age in the entire city isn’t much more than that – about 177,000 – which strongly suggests a teen male with dark skin in New York City will probably get stopped and frisked by the time he’s graduated from high school.

The debate about stop and frisk’s racial disparities comes down to opponents who say it racially profiles and supporters who say the people stopped fit the descriptions of most suspects. The conversation, until now, has been dominated by lawyers, politicians, police officials and community leaders. 

But ask junior high and high school students around the city, from affluent to low-income neighborhoods, and most appear to agree on one main premise: who gets stopped and frisked has everything to do with where you live and what color your skin is. 

“We’re A Bunch of Skinny White Kids”

Last year, the NYPD stopped teenagers more than 140,000 times.

But at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, which is 96 percent Asian and white, you would be hard pressed to find even one kid among the 3,300 students who has ever been stopped and frisked.

The students here, at one of the city’s most elite public high schools, are known to excel at academics. They are the eager students, the ones who raise their hands in class. But ask them how many of them have ever been stopped and frisked by police, and what you get back is a sea of blank stares.

Victor Cai, is an Asian-American freshman who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He said it’s clear why he’s never been stopped and frisked: He doesn’t look like the part.

“They’re like hooded, in hoodies. They wear, like, very baggy clothing,” said Victor, describing someone who might appear suspicious to police.  “And they’re African-American or Hispanic.”

Victor and his classmates point out a few other differences. 

"We don’t look suspicious. We don’t look like scary criminals or terrorists, or whatever.  We’re very unthreatening people,” said Benedict Bolton, a 15-year-old freshman at Stuyvesant who is white. “We’re a bunch of, to be honest, skinny white kids.”

Cross over to Brownsville, Brooklyn, where there aren’t many skinny white kids, and the story of stop and frisk suddenly becomes “A Tale of Two Cities.” 

A Tale of Two Cities: Lower Manhattan vs. Brownsville










(Photo: Malik Small, 14, (left) said he has been stopped four times by police.  Tyari Jenkins, 14, (right) is an eighth grader at Teachers Preparatory High School in Browsville. Since getting stopped for the first time when he was 12, Tyari has wanted to become a criminal defense lawyer. Ailsa Chang/WNYC)

The demographics of Teachers Preparatory High School in Brownsville are 99 percent black and Latino.  It takes only five minutes to find a group of 14-year olds here who say they have been stopped by police two, three, even seven times.

WNYC mapped the exact coordinates of every recorded stop of a teenager in 2011. It turns out the densest hot spot for stop and frisks of teenagers last year was along a four-block section of Brownsville, next to Teachers Preparatory High School, near the Marcus Garvey public housing projects. 

Brownsville is in the 73rd precinct, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the city.

In this area alone, kids between 14 and 18 made up more than 2,700 of the nearly 8,000 people stopped by police in 2011. Within a three-block radius around Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, police stopped teens 7 times last year.*

Tyari Jenkins, a 14-year-old African-American student at Teachers Preparatory High School, said he has been stopped and frisked three times. 

(Photo: Malik Fleming, 14, has been stopped and frisked three times in Brownsville. Ailsa Chang/WNYC)

The first time was as a 12-year-old, when he was barely five feet tall, he said. He had been walking out of his home to his friend’s house across the street.

“When I looked up, I see the cop.  He was like, ‘You,’ and I was like, ‘Me?’  He said, ‘Yeah,’” Tyari recalled.  “He said, ‘Empty your book bag,’ and I was like, ‘Okay,’ and I was taking my time. Then he said, ‘You need to hurry up.’ And he started emptying my book bag and dropped my stuff on the ground.”

The officers asked for an ID. Tyari said he left his at home, so the officers hauled him back home across the street and asked his mother to identify him. After a few minutes, they left.

Tyari said he’s never been arrested for anything. Neither have any of the other Brownsville kids who shared their stories. They are now 14 years old, and all of them have been stopped by police between two and seven times.    

Emani Orr is an eighth grade student at P.S./I.S. 323, a school that is 99 percent black and Latino and nearby to Teachers Preparatory High School. 

Orr and her twin brother Zeandre were walking to the McDonald’s on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville around 5 p.m. a few months ago when they were approached by police, she said.

“They was like, ‘It’s too late for you all to be outside’ but we was just walking,” she said.

Although she didn’t get patted down – the officers explained it was because she was a girl – Zeandre did.

“I guess it was just because we was two black kids in the neighborhood at night time walking around,” said Zeandre.

Ashley Fernandez (right), who’s Dominican and also an eighth grader at P.S./I.S. 323, said she started getting stopped by police when she was 12-years old. 

By her 14th birthday, she said she had been stopped by police between seven and eight times. 

Ashley thinks it’s because she dresses like a boy. Her long hair is usually pulled back in a tight ponytail which she threads through an Oakland Raiders baseball cap. She wears baggy T-shirts, sneakers and loose jeans.

“I don’t sag though, really, because I’m still a girl,” she said.

She said she usually gets stopped by police when leaving school for the day, and the stops seem to happen when she doesn’t have her backpack on, so she’s gotten used to wearing her school bag all the time.

One day when she was 12, she said police stopped her and a group of friends while they were walking to McDonald’s.

“They asked us where we coming from, and they asked us to see ID. And we said ‘We 12, we don’t got ID,’” said Ashley.

She said the officers looked inside each of their book bags and asked if they were in a gang. Everyone shook their heads. The police moved on after five minutes.

But sometimes the police don’t move on after a few minutes. 

Anthony Henry, also an eighth grader from P.S./I.S. 323, was walking to school before 8 a.m. last month when a big jeep pulled up alongside him. Five cops jumped out, he said. 

“And they were all like, ‘Put your hands up’ and stuff,” said Anthony. “They checked me, checked my book bag. They threw all my books on the floor.”

The police started questioning him about drugs and gang members. He said he didn’t know anyone in a gang. They took him home, and his mom started yelling at the cops, telling them they had the wrong guy. At that point, Anthony said one officer just patted him on the head, and said, “My bad.” 

By the time his mom drove him back to school, Anthony had already missed first and second period. 

“It made me feel, I dunno, retarded,” said Anthony. “Like a gangbanger. Because only gangbangers get stopped for nothing, just for walking.”

“White Kids in Manhattan Have No Idea”

The Brownsville students who spoke to WNYC say they were never surprised when they actually got stopped.  Many of them already got that talk – that talk with a parent about what to do when a police officer rolls up on you. 

Tyari Jenkins says his mom gave him the same advice she followed when she was growing up in Brownsville:

“When the cops come and stop you, just cooperate and do what they say.  Because if you do something bad, or if you get too violent, they can take you to jail. They not the ones who’s going to get in trouble,” he said.

(Photo: Anthony Henry, 14, said he was stopped and frisked on his way to school at P.S./I.S. 323. When the police let him go, he said he already missed first and second period at school. Ailsa Chang/WNYC)

The police department has long defended stop and frisks as a way to bring down violent crime and get guns off the street. The NYPD did not return request for comment on this story.

Tyari said there are gang members in Brownsville – lots of them – his age.  But the police will stop everyone, he says, because to them, he said, everyone seems to look the same. 

“I think that’s discrimination because white kids in Manhattan have no idea cops can frisk you for no reason,” he said, “like they walk past the cops and actually say, ‘Good Morning’ to them.”

But maybe some white kids in Manhattan do get it. 

Freshman Colby Goldberg of Stuyvesant High said he knows how different his life is from other 14-year-olds who live just nine miles away in places like Brownsville.

“If I was the same exact personality but born to a different family, with a different skin color, then that would totally change my, I guess, my life,” said Colby. “It’s a sad consequence of the way society is and the way society forces people to be.”


* CORRECTION: Due to a data-handling mistake, the map and the starred paragraph drawn from it originally described total stop-and-frisks for 2011, not just the teen stops. The map and the text have been changed to correctly reflect both.


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Comments [26]

Pat Dingle from New Jersey

My son who attends Princeton University had a conversation with local police officers in the area. They shared with him, that crime rates for upper middle class white young teens/adults was no less than minorities who are always profiled. From theft, carrying guns without a permit, drunk driving, drugs in their pockets/purses and speeding violations. These arrests never make it into the stats because lawyers and sometimes the police are paid off to 'make the problem disappear'. The stats are not accurate when we read that more crime is committed by minorities. Look at the 'Affluenza' case where 4 people were killed.

Aug. 25 2014 11:17 AM
bill oberholtzer from 21 st and 7 ave

I like reality check. I have been stopped and frisked, even had to wait for the drug dog to come and wag his tail so they could claim probable cause. Of course they did not find anything but years later I am still pissed. Perhaps in the city if everyone carried guns the crime rate would go down and the cops would not have the excuse - well it is a high crime area so we have to stop and frisk.

Aug. 21 2014 09:36 AM
LANA from Stockton

REPOST:The argument that Blacks and Latinos are committing most of the crimes does not justify NYPD stopping the harmless looking kids in the above photos, and many others like them. The police are supposed to be street wise and be able to tell, through behavior only, which kids merit being stopped or watched and which don't. From the numbers displayed about the retrieval of guns, NYPD recovers very few in relation to the massive amounts of people being stopped.I can sit on a subway and feel who I have to be afraid of and who I don't, and I'm probably right most of the time.
Why can't a cop exercise the same precise judgement and stop far fewer people, instead of what seems to be general street sweeps of anyone happening to be out at the time-many of them kids going to or coming from school.
Why should NYPD be able to stop people for walking down the street? 99% of them innocent pedestrians in their own neighborhood? What happened to civil rights?
Bloomberg and Kelly will go down in NYC history for instituting the most racist policy we have seen in our great city. Southerners must be shaking their heads laughing about us so called liberal northerners, saying Jim Crow dun took the Amtrak to NYC.

Aug. 21 2014 08:10 AM
Franz from Zurich

177,000/120,000 = 68%. From where was the 86% derived?

Aug. 21 2014 01:13 AM
The Truth from Becky

Gino, you're an idiot,"stop whining" really? you think these kids are making this up? I wish a stop and frisk on you in the near future, then come back and update your comments.

Jun. 18 2012 12:35 PM
Gino from brooklyn

Are minorities disproportionately stopped by the police or is this just a fictional complaint that avoids the bigger picture of race and crime in America? People should just stop whining about stop and frisks!

Read more about the issue here:

Jun. 17 2012 12:52 PM

To the people who seem to think any violation of civil rights is perfectly okay if it lowers crime ...

The vast majority of crimes are committed by men. Do you think that is sufficient to justify the police constantly stopping and frisking any and all males? Are you willing to have your dad, brother, husband, sons and nephews roughed up by the NYPD on a regular basis for no other reason than their gender?

If that's not a good enough reason, neither is race or ethnicity.

Jun. 02 2012 12:31 AM
queenscheeko from nyny

Jun. 01 2012 11:37 PM
Adam Herbst from New Jersey

The map is missing an important measure - whether crime has gone down in the areas with the most stop and frisks. The police and the mayor claim that stop and frisk lowers crime. Add this to the map and we'll see if they are right or wrong.

May. 30 2012 04:01 PM
Bocheball from NYC

The argument that Blacks and Latinos are committing most of the crimes does not justify NYPD stopping the harmless looking kids in the above photos, and many others like them. The police are supposed to be street wise and be able to tell, through behavior only, which kids merit being stopped or watched and which don't. From the numbers displayed about the retrieval of guns, NYPD recovers very few in relation to the massive amounts of people being stopped.I can sit on a subway and feel who I have to be afraid of and who I don't, and I'm probably right most of the time.
Why can't a cop exercise the same precise judgement and stop far fewer people, instead of what seems to be general street sweeps of anyone happening to be out at the time-many of them kids going to or coming from school.
Why should NYPD be able to stop people for walking down the street? 99% of them innocent pedestrians in their own neighborhood? What happened to civil rights?
Bloomberg and Kelly will go down in NYC history for instituting the most racist policy we have seen in our great city. Southerners must be shaking their heads laughing about us so called liberal northerners, saying Jim Crow dun took the Amtrak to NYC.

May. 30 2012 10:15 AM

This should be the top issue of the next mayoral race. And Chang should get a Pulitzer for staying on this story.

May. 29 2012 08:31 PM
Jeremy Rogers from Brooklyn

I love WNYC but am not loving this oft repeated story from it's Ivory Tower team of journalist.

I was on the B52 bus a scant few days ago. A teen pulled a gun (A GUN) on another teen...on a completely full bus. It was obviously chaos and if a shot had been fired someone who have been hit as the bus was standing room only...people standing shoulder to shoulder.

I live in Lefferts Gardens which is real estate agent speak for in between Crown Heights and Flatbush Ave. There were four shootings in my neighborhood (that I know of) in the past 12-16 months. That IS NOT including the numerous weapons fired off in "celebration" on holidays such as New Years and the Fourth of July.

I've been Black all my life. I have lived with Black people all my life and at this point could give a rat's butt how many people are stopped and given a look over. No harm, no foul. If the greatest imposition is five minutes of your time...tough. If you disagree, what the hell about my civil right to not be afraid to walk down the street or get on a bus without a gun being pulled or fired.

When you agree to move on my block you can give me your take on the whole thing...face to face.

Jeremy R.

May. 29 2012 05:22 PM

It seems to me that if you want to justify an egregious assault on civil liberties such as frisking 12 year olds simply because of where they were born and what they look like, you need rock solid evidence that your policy is extremely effective. In fact, this evidence does not exist. Crime rates have indeed lowered, but correlation is NOT causation. Ice cream consumption has gone up as crime rates decreased too, but nobody is thanking Mister Softee for safer streets. Moreover, white men are actually more likely to carry guns and drugs, but stop and frisk is overwhelming done against black and latino men. Stop and frisk is de facto racist at best, and NOT something I want my tax dollars supporting. I fear a malicious, lazy police policy far more than I fear my neighbors.

May. 29 2012 04:42 PM
JoJo from Red Hook, Bklyn

To the "more stories like these" poster: This same story has been repeated, sadly, just about EVERY WEEK for the past year on WNYC!

The stop-and frisk story is old news. It's time to dig deeper. Are these reports just parroting statistics and anecdotal evidence? Can someone at WYNC who is interested in journalism now investigate and answer the "why"? Why these perceptions of people of color by the NYPD? Why "no comment" from the NYPD? Why are there never-ending supplies of drugs flowing in and through lower income neighborhoods? Why is there such a large police presence there in the first place? Why has institutionalized racism kept people from moving onward and upward with their lives? Why does it just go on and on and on?

These incidents don't occur in a vacuum. Ask the difficult questions, please!

May. 29 2012 04:32 PM
Beth from Brooklyn

To those wanting "both sides of the story" -- the author explicitly mentions that the police did not respond to requests for comment. The author cannot provide data that the organization in question refused to supply. If the story seems one-sided, it's because the NYPD declined to participate, which says something in and of itself.

May. 29 2012 01:57 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk

Great job by Ms. Chang. More reports like this please.

May. 29 2012 12:49 PM
Kelly Virella from NYC


Thank you so much for this article. It was hard to read the section about Stuyvesant high. As experienced as I am in the ways of the world -- as a 37-year-old African-American woman and as a journalist -- I was stunned to hear the kids explanation of racial profiling and the biases implicit in those explanations. Just curious: during the interview, did you talk to them about NYCLU's findings about the rate of guns recovered from stops? As WNYC has reported, NYCLU says guns are only recovered in 1.9 percent of cases and more likely to be recovered from whites searched than from others.


May. 29 2012 12:48 PM
a-RO from UWS

Supporters claim stop and frisk is justified because it lowers rates of crime. Even if this is true, the policy seems to be a textbook violation of basic constitutional rights. The fourth amendment protects against illegal search and seizure. Even if the majority of (blue collar) crimes were committed by minorities, that is not probable cause for stopping someone on the street and searching their bags and patting them down. I don't care if stop and frisk led to the city being so safe you could leave your doors unlocked and bikes unchained, it is a clear violation of the constitution. If we as a country voted to amend the constitution and repeal the 4th amendment (what's left of it), then police could stop and frisk all they wanted, but until that time we have to defend what the constitution says. Bloomberg, this is going to be a multi-hundred million settlement that puts the city in more financial stress and raises taxes even more.

May. 29 2012 12:32 PM
To PeaceLoveKris10 from nyc

Yes it sounds crazy doesnt it? Ubtil it happens to you though you wont beleive it. But yes . I get into elevator with lets say 4 white people. By the time the elevator gets to my floor the elevator stops 6-7 times. I'm the last person in the elevator but once I press my floor 3 others press their floors again. Sounds crazy right? Must be seeing things right? Paranoind right? LIke I said until it happens to you you will not beleive it. Obviously my reality is not yours.

May. 29 2012 12:12 PM
"white guy"

Thanks for this map, and this story.

Most of these shakedowns are performed by non-uniformed cops in unmarked cars, who violate peoples' civil rights daily, break the law probably every 30 seconds, speed recklessly through red lights with abandon as it suits them (usually to squeeze in a trip to the pizza shop, before having to be back at the precinct).

Beyond racial profiling, and these lawless renegades that cruise with immunity in our city, a critical element to address is the standards (or lack thereof) for becoming a police officer. NYC is flooding the streets with dangerously young, uneducated, inarticulate, and poorly trained new cops. There's something we all may appreciate about having more peace officers on the street - if they were in fact, competent peace officers, versed in the law. But go engage that 18-year old 'officer', slouching in his/her overly baggy uniform against the wall while texting or joking in profanity with his/her partner in crime, and ask them a question about the law, or if this or that is legal. Listen to the answer. Notice the gun. Notice the shaky body language. The poor communication skills. We need to address this huge problem of uneducated untrained poorly disciplined cops. Not only because we constantly get stupid tickets for nonsense. Not only because of the huge liability that the city takes on (lawsuit settlements we, the tax payers, pay for) when these baby cops really do something stupid. But because we are slowly becoming a more policed city, and nation, and passive acceptance of that, is historically how the seeds are sown for fascists elements to become embedded in a society.

We need to look at budgetary allotment, and why they might be hiring these 1000s of new poorly trained baby cops, to fill out a uniform, make $50k a year (~$78k after 5 years), and fill their quotas issuing non-sensical tickets to pay for this Kafka-esque cycle. Does it really benefit us? Does it benefit the property and business owners, really? Think about your tax burdens. Is it the right kind of deployment to make us more safe?

-Resident, Bedstuy

May. 29 2012 10:58 AM
humberto tejeda

I'm glad somebody is saying some thing about stop and frisk against teenagers.
well, why not investigate the bodily injury suffer by some of the minors who not only get stop and frisk but also get ruoughened up by cops. my son Isaac tejeda from ps325 was going home last sommer and was stopped and witnessed how some of his friends were man handledand thrown to the ground violently to the point suffering minor concuctions; I went to the 33th pricint and i was told by a cop that that was normal. that kids get stop all the time.
My son said that he was detained and interrogated over an iphone
that was stolen five to six blocks away. my son said they were trying to intimidate him to confess for a crime he had no knowledge of. there were about a dozen police officers and every one of them asked him the same question over and over again for more than an hour. As a father I was upset to hear from my how he was treated the same folks who claim to serve and proted.

May. 29 2012 09:33 AM
Karen from Harlem

Looks like the NYPD has trolls here to still defend this!

May. 29 2012 09:26 AM

Dear BlackUpperEastSider,
You are perpetuating the same hate that you are experiencing. I hope you can find peace because I imagine that this must way on you every second of every day and you are filled with hate and rage. It seems as though that there is a self fulling prophecy are both sides. The statistic say that Black & Hispanic youth commit more crimes... maybe because those are the only people they are frisking. BUT you are just like the cops.... pretending to press a wrong floor in elevator? Maybe you are seeing racism because you are racist. You think they hate you & are trying to get away from you because you feel uncomfortable in the neighborhood you live in because of your own racial attitudes about yourself.

I hope you can find peace because it must be terrible living in the situation that you are.

May. 29 2012 07:32 AM
mclombs from Brooklyn

What impact has the stop and frisk program had on crime rates in these areas? It has been asserted that this is the most successful crime reduction program ever implemented by the NYPD and that the race/ethnicity of those who are stopped is generally consistent with the race of the neighborhood - that is, they are not minorities in a micro- sense. I would like to learn more about such assertions and the full story behind the program. I have heard dozens of NPR segments on this topic and they have been consistently shallow and one-sided. This issue warrants debate and both sides should be addressed in your coverage. Please practice responsible journalism and educate your listeners so they can come to their own conclusions.

May. 29 2012 06:47 AM
Reality Check

What this article failed to report is who is committing most of the crimes. Why would the cops stop mostly black and hispanic youths? Because they want to? No. Go to the precincts and ask the police for crime stats. Most of the crimes are committed by black and hispanic youths.

May. 29 2012 06:38 AM
fuva from harlemworld

BlackUpperEastSider -- I feel your pain, frustration, anger...
And it seems that a full examination of this issue should include discussion of the ASSAULTIVE aspect of profiling. Is it not an aggressive act?
HOWEVER, we should never want the bs that happens to us, to happen to others. Not even the perpetrators.

May. 29 2012 05:44 AM

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