Map: NYPD Finds Most Guns Outside Stop-and-Frisk Hotspots

Monday, July 16, 2012

NYPD (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly argue the main purpose of stop-and-frisk is to get guns off the street.  Out of more than 685,000 stops in 2011, about 770 guns were recovered.  That means about one tenth of one percent of all stops result in the seizure of a gun. 

But those guns are not showing up in the places where the police are devoting the most stop-and-frisk resources. 

Using data from the New York City police department, WNYC mapped all street stops by police that resulted in the recovery of a gun last year. The digital map shows an interesting pattern. We located all the "hot spots" where stop and frisks are concentrated in the city, and found that most guns were recovered on people outside those hot spots—meaning police aren't finding guns where they're looking the hardest.

Take the East Concourse section of the Bronx, where each block typically sees fewer than a hundred stops a year. Police found 25 guns there. But travel a short way toward Hunts Point, to three blocks that each saw more than 400 stops last year, and police found only two guns there.


The same pattern happens in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In a small area in Flatbush, where blocks each see fewer than a hundred stops, police found 10 guns last year. But go north to a section that saw thousands of stops, and it turns out police found only one gun through a stop-and-frisk.

So what does this pattern mean?  Well, that depends on whom you ask. 

Police critics say the map proves cops don't know where to look for guns and are making excessive suspicion-less stops. 

But commanding officers within the NYPD tell WNYC the police concentrate their stop-and-frisk activity where violent crimes have been reported. Violent crimes, not past gun recoveries, determine where police officers are sent, they say. 

Further, these officers point out, the WNYC map is evidence that stop-and-frisk tactics are working. They say people don’t carry guns in the areas they expect to get stopped by police — that's deterrence. 

According to these cops, the map shows they're still finding the guns in high-crime areas, just not on the specific blocks that happen to be saturated with police. 


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Comments [31]

RL from Queens

People who say stop and frisk is racist are projecting their own prejudices onto the numbers.

The policy is to cover high crime areas with cops in the hopes of catching the next potential criminal. If the demographics of those high crime areas happen to skew towards one race or another, of course the stop and frisk numbers will reflect those demographics. The policy itself is reasonable and it's a shame people are denouncing it based on their own attitudes towards police and authority and not on its effectiveness.

Sep. 10 2013 09:12 AM
Smelly jones from nyc

The whole "stop question and frisk" program is unconstitutional.Set aside the huge racist aspect for a second,and focus on a search that is done without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion.All some scumbag cop has to say is you looked suspicious, what ever the hell that means.The nypd have forever earned my deepest hatred, and I will never help the pigs in any way.By the way I am white and these nypd pigs have harassed me numerous times, and I was never ticketed or arrested.Do they apologist when their illegal search finds nothing?No they don't the pigs say get the fu*k out of here and act like Nazis.

Oct. 10 2012 06:46 PM
Steven Romalewski from NYC

My observations on the map:

Jul. 27 2012 02:42 PM
Geographer from New York, NY

Steven Romalewski's (well-respected NYC GISer/Geographer) provides thoughtful insight on this map;

Jul. 26 2012 11:24 AM

thomas giovanni - i know because i grew up in it. When I was in high school we had metal detectors. You know why? Not because of racism... but because someone was murdered in our school!!! Every single student of every race (yes there were still a handful of whites there) - academic achievement etc. had to go through the metal detectors. Guess what - persons still were able to sneak weapons in... Persons still committed robberies. Does that mean then the metal detectors shouldn't have been used??? Of course not!!! Of course they prevented some things from happening. That happened more than 20 years ago... and I could guarantee you today that if they took those metal detectors out now... students would be bold enough to bring weapons right in the front door again. This is not fantasy land.

As far as the "street". Criminals often move to the path of least resistance (hence why drug dealers flood "sleepy" college towns). I also knew many criminals I grew up around that fled to other states because the NYPD put a lot of pressure on them. I don't need a Phd in Sociology (though I took one class in college) because I saw and heard these things with my own eyes growing up.

You say you are from Bed-Stuy... well I had a good friend who lived in Brownsville in the 90's and was robbed 5 (yes 5) times in her own neighborhood. You ask her would she prefer to be stopped by the cops or faced an armed robber... Give me a break.

So I guess by your sound judgement - no goods that are shipped should ever be checked for contraband either - since that is an invasion of privacy right???? By your thoughts - they should repeal the governments ability since that's too much power for them to have a dog sniff packages randomly. No one should be checked to go on a plane either then...? Is that an abuse of authority??? Matter of fact - there is no need for customs on international flights either right??? Guess what - more people are murdered on the streets of NYC than die in airplane accidents. People can go back and forth and debate all day...

As I said - I just hope for your sake its not a relative or close friend of yours. Death is final. Innocent blood is a serious thing. Mental scars from an armed robbery are much deeper than being asked for ID from a police officer.

I'm an adult male - and a minority. When I was younger I took the popular neighborhood view that the police were the "enemy". As an adult I've been stopped twice - but never frisked. You know what happens when I see the police now? I say "I wish they were doing this when I was younger and some ppl I know who are dead might still be alive".

I'm not pontificating.... I'm dealing with "blood and sweat" (literally) - "meat and potatoes" - "bread and butter"... or any other colloquialism you want to use.

Jul. 26 2012 08:44 AM
Bill/HancockMI from Hancock, MI

Why do you carry an elephant gun?
To keep away the elephants.
But there aren't any elephants here!
See how well it works.

Jul. 25 2012 09:00 AM
Thomas Giovanni from Bed-Stuy

Curious as to how you know SQF prevented one murder, let alone "many more."

And the "if it only stops one" rhetoric is a broad and dangerous license to grant to government. Enforcing a dusk til dawn curfew would reduce the murder rate. Outlawing handguns, alcohol and teenage driving would prevent thousands of deaths, purposeful and accidental. Implanting gps-capable chips in all newborns would undoubtedly one day help police find a kidnapped child (or adult) and prevent at least one murder over the course of many years.

What I've found is that the "if it prevents one" rhetoric is often used to support an unpleasant/painful thing that the speaker is not subject to (which may or may not be you), and is only rarely in support of some policy that actually hurts the speaker. Regardless, it's an unfortunately common, and generally weak, argument. Closer in nature to the pontificating you caution against than it is a reasoned support of a controversial policy.

Jul. 25 2012 06:13 AM
Thomas Giovanni from Bed-Stuy

Curious as to how you know SQF prevented one murder, let alone "many more."

And the "if it only stops one" rhetoric is a broad and dangerous license to grant to government. Enforcing a dusk til dawn curfew would reduce the murder rate. Outlawing handguns, alcohol and teenage driving would prevent thousands of deaths, purposeful and accidental. Implanting gps-capable chips in all newborns would undoubtedly one day help police find a kidnapped child (or adult) and prevent at least one murder over the course of many years.

What I've found is that the "if it prevents one" rhetoric is often used to support an unpleasant/painful thing that the speaker is not subject to (which may or may not be you), and is only rarely in support of some policy that actually hurts the speaker. Regardless, it's an unfortunately common, and generally weak, argument. Closer in nature to the pontificating you caution against than it is a reasoned support of a controversial policy.

Jul. 25 2012 06:07 AM

JL from Bed Stuy - you see you said: "During NY's major crime drop NYPD made 500,000 less stops a year then they do now." You see that is grossly inaccurate. The difference is now that they are being documented where in that past that was not the case. Ask any long time law enforcement officer. I can even say that in my own youth from what I saw. It happened... it just wasn't stated and recorded policy.
And even if they only stopped 1 single murder (which I know from growing up it prevents many more) - I say it's worth it. Everyone wants to talk and pontificate in theory - until it's their own relative or close friend who is murdered or robbed by someone with a handgun.

Jul. 24 2012 08:51 PM
Stan Chaz from Brooklyn

Give them an inch, and these control-freaks will take a foot. And then another foot.
We have gotten "accustomed" to many things we should never have allowed
...whether in the name of what's good for us, or health or safety or security
....or whatever latest excuse they are floating.

Jul. 24 2012 06:14 PM
JL from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn

Stop and frisks are not an effective tool for finding guns. Weapons are recovered in only 2/10ths of 1 percent of frisks. Now we see that NYPD find guns even less where they are looking most intensely.

Some people say this failure is actually proof that frisks prevent gun possession. "Oh they dont find guns? Well thats not the point - they prevent gun possession - thats why we fail to find guns." But is there proof that these hundreds of thousands of stops work this way? No. If there was proof stops prevented crime the NYPD might not be getting there ass kicked in this debate. Is it entirely possible that people with guns simply shift neighborhoods when police swarm one neighborhood? Yes. Is the solution as one commentator said to add more stops in every neighborhood?! No!

This tactic, as used today, is not an essential part of crime fighting. During NY's major crime drop NYPD made 500,000 less stops a year then they do now. Talk to people in highly policed neighborhoods. They generally want police presence with out constant police harassment and searches. Doesnt that sounds like a reasonable request for American citizens to make?

Jul. 20 2012 04:47 PM
Creatingmischief in BK

Something I have noticed about NYC cops is that they ignore a good portion of the stuff going on while standing on the street corner. They do not follow traffic laws. Quite often these officers are disrespectful in their manner and the way that they speak. It's appalling that these people are in charge of anything; especially Stop & Frisk. The cops are the real bad guy on the street. The rest of this nonsense is just a way to arrest more people, put them through the system for a small drug charge, and make money, all the while claiming that their unconstitutional act is "helping" make the city a safer place. I live in the hood where I have a network of amazing people from all walks of life looking out for each other. Never have I found such a sense of community, but I witness the police state we live in every single day as the cops overrun our blocks. Personally I'd feel safer if the cops regarded the rest of us as human beings and made their duties to serve and protect the people instead of treating us all like criminals. I know this ain't Mayberry, but I do have higher expectations than this sad excuse of a system.

Jul. 19 2012 03:15 PM

A common misconceptionis that stop and frisk is used solely to get guns off of the street. The grits is that it is used for all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors. The stops for larceny and burglary would yield less guns than robbery, drug sales or criminal possession of a weapon. How many of these stops were for violent crimes where suspects tend to carry a weapon. While grand larcinies are a problem in this city, the larcinests (pickpockets) rarely carry a firearm.

Jul. 18 2012 06:05 AM

BHirsh - by all indication - NYC is safer and healthier than Miami... so who is the fool?
True story - I knew criminals that lived around me that moved down to Miami/South Florida in the 90's to the early 2000's because of lax attitudes like yours... as they knew it was "easier to get away" with crimes in your area.

Jul. 17 2012 04:13 PM
Andre from NY

I grew up in a rough area and can tell you most assuredly that "stop and frisk" existed off the books starting around 1995/96 (after the squegee men and fare beaters were taken care of). I could remember they would come around and ask point blank "is anybody carrying?"... and proceed to pat down everyone. The guys "on the block" knew to stop carrying weapons on their person. They just stashed them... or had females or younger ppl who they knew if caught would not do time. People who think criminals are not smart are the real fools.
The other issue that helped slow down random shooting was the law that passed that called for mandatory time for carrying an illegal gun and extra time for carrying hollow point bullets (that go through vests). As I said - a lot of criminals are not dumb - they do "risk assessments" just like the corporate world.
Without the fear of getting stopped - those sentencing guidelines won't mean much.

Jul. 17 2012 04:10 PM
John Keefe, WNYC

Thanks for all of the great comments.

I'd like to address the concerns by Brian Abelson, just so everyone knows our thought process on this.

We plotted stops according to census *blocks* not tracts, as Brian says. The blocks are a much smaller unit, and in New York City, because of the density, census blocks correlate closely with city blocks -- bounded by streets. That seemed relevant to us. Especially since the contrasts from one side of the street to another can be so stark.

Brian's point on weighting is a good one, though that also has problems in this case. The block with the most stops is actually the one between Port Authority and Times Square -- where there are relatively few residents. There are high numbers around subway stations, too, and I suspect people stopped in those blocks generally don't also live in those blocks.

So we went with the smallest unit we thought was relevant to the city -- the census block -- and stuck to the raw number of stops.

Jul. 17 2012 12:05 PM

oh, whoops. my mistake! you can delete that last one (and if so, this one too)--or not--i'll live either way.

Jul. 17 2012 01:34 AM
Caroline from you guess

It's called *Fort Tryon* Park. It's bordered by Fort Washington Avenue, but the park is Fort Tryon.

Jul. 17 2012 01:30 AM
BHirsh from Miami FL

What happens if you don't WANT to be stopped and frisked? Any recourse?

No? Then, why in the world would anybody in his/her right mind want to be in NYC in the first place?

Pitiful. You people in the City are beyond hope. You accept this kind of totalitarian intrusion, and for Christ's sake, even elected (repeatedly) a mayor who tells you under color of authority what you can and can't eat and drink.

New York City is completely nuts. Around the bend. In Lalaland.

Better you than us, suckers.

Jul. 17 2012 12:21 AM
The Truth from NYC

Stop and Frisk was great when Bratton controlled it!!! It worked back then. Stop and Frisk works if done correctly. Under Kelly Stop and Frisk isn't working. For example, Stop and Frisk is at an all time high now and crime is going up everyday that means, IT'S NOT WORKING!!! We are stopping the wrong people.

Everyone saying we short cops, the last time I check One Police Plaza had hundreds of cops inside doing civilian jobs. Put them back on the street!!! What NYPD needs is new leadership. The morale is so low for cops it's sad. The sad part is Bloomberg let Kelly run this cirus! Any other Police Commissioner make statements like he does would had been fired. Also, It's not just NYPD fault. Summer jobs are cut this summer, there are no more programs. Many things play a role with lowering crime not just stop and frisk and Bill Bratton knew how to handle this. Commissioner Kelly don't want to partner with no one but himself. Crime will keep going up until we get real leadership in One Police Plaza!!!

Jul. 16 2012 11:54 PM
Jon from Manhattan

I'm afraid that this map makes perfect sense. Even if one assumes a random distribution of hand guns throughout the City concentrated "stop and frisk" tactics will eventually deplete any given area; the frequency of successful S&F declines. As long as the rate of handgun replenishment does not exceed that of hand gun removal, this snap shot of a dynamic process is reasonable and expected.

Nevertheless, removing 770 illegal handguns should not be dismissed cavalierly. That's potentially at least 770 fewer deaths or injury in a City where every death from handgun violence is a tragedy.

Jul. 16 2012 04:43 PM
robert carow

Yes, Alisa, I agree with you. Let the people in the neighborhood police themselves since they believe that would make them better off.

Jul. 16 2012 04:37 PM

Start learning your rights people. "I do not consent to a search. I'm not operating a vehicle or boarding/flying a plane and therefor am not required to have id on me. Am I being detained or am I free to go?"

Jul. 16 2012 04:29 PM
Mark from Joisey

@Peggy - I would say 'no one with an ILLEGAL gun should ever feel safe from detection ...", but hey - in New York that's everyone but cops and celebrities anyway.

Jul. 16 2012 02:28 PM
John Thomas from NYC

I agree with Brian. Great looking map, but flawed. According to released data, a large number of stops are not related to gun possession (Robbery, Burglary, Trespass,drugs, etc). In over 300,000 stops the person wasn't even frisked. Is your data filtering for suspected crime and frisks?

Jul. 16 2012 02:27 PM
bobthegunslinger from tamp,fla.

who cares?this is completely illegal and all you people are doing is debating it!you should be yelling and screaming to the tops of your voices!you people seem to be slaves to the system and complacent about it!vote these anarchists out of office and take back your city!

Jul. 16 2012 12:28 PM

While fewer guns are being taken in areas where most of the searches are happening, the article fails to mention that criminals in NY aren't giving up on having guns available, they're just not carrying them on their person. The gangs have guns that they stash around town for the criminals to use and then put back.

Jul. 16 2012 12:00 PM
Brian Abelson

Great looking map. Unfortunately, there are some serious problems with your methods. In no particular order:

1. This map is highlighting census tracts with higher counts, not "hot spots". The difference is that a hot spot takes into account the activity in surrounding census tracts. A census tract is a highly arbitrary and non-uniform boundary which has no administrative significance. If we are truly interested in where stops occur the most, we would not like those locations to be a product of an oddly shaped census tract (this is especially a problem because census tracts are drawn along major streets where stops tend to happen). So a hot spot is only a hot spot when the surrounding census tracts are also hot, or at least "warm." See a full description of "hot spots" here:
I've also written an R script that will calculate this statistic for you:

2. Determining hot spots with raw counts is equally problematic. What do you think happens in census tracts that are densely populated (for instance, a public housing project)? These will be immediately biased towards having higher counts To be more accurate, you should normalize the counts by total population.

3. Your article claims that fewer guns are retrieved from hot spots, yet your proof is a couple of anecdotes. To make such a general claim you need to statistically test for this relationship.

You should be commended on producing insightful research on a controversial topic. But by improperly using statistical techniques and overstating your case, you put yourself at risk of being accused of sensationalism at best and full-on inaccuracy at worst. I'd love to see this idea re-worked and done properly!

Jul. 16 2012 10:59 AM
mark from New York

Maybe the bad guys know to not carry guns where stop and frisk is employed the most?

Jul. 16 2012 10:55 AM
Peggy from East Village

Keep in mind, if you are a gun toter you would probably stay clear of areas where you think you might get stopped right? So the plan is actually working. Guns are leaving the streets.

Perhaps expanding stop and search to more areas would be a good direction? Bottom line, no one with a gun should ever feel safe from detection on our streets.

Jul. 16 2012 10:25 AM

One could argue that OT is working! Guns are not showing up there because of stop and frisk. Have the tear of the numbers been analyzed? Are they preventing an unarmed robbery from becoming an armed robbery in a high crime area? Look at all of the numbers. NYPD computers track crime and trends much more extensively than this map can. Time of day and day of week are all taken into consideration.

Jul. 16 2012 06:00 AM

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