What is a “high-crime area” and what does that mean?
It turns out, everything and nothing. And race has a lot to do with it.
Professors Ben Grunwald, of Duke, and Jeffrey Fagan, of Columbia, examined two million NYPD stops from 2007-2012 and find that NYPD officers “call almost every block in the city high crime,” that “their assessments of whether an area is high crime are nearly uncorrelated with actual crime rates,” and “the racial composition of the area and the identity of the officer are stronger predictors of whether an officer calls an area high crime than the crime rate itself.”
Their article, The End of Intuition-Based High-Crime Areas, which you can access here, presents the first empirical analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in Illinois v. Wardlow and its holding that a suspect’s presence in a “high-crime area” is relevant to the question of whether an officer had reasonable suspicion to justify a stop.
You can read more about the study here.
This analysis should be extremely useful when challenging the reasonable suspicion for stops, especially those based on Wardlow‘s high-crime area factor.