As New Yorkers select mayor, stop-and-frisk anger builds up
Lisa Serradilla, a Harlem resident, was driving her car off her house to the laundry in August when she was followed by a police car and requested to stop. A policeman approached her.
“He stepped out of the car and proceeded and said to me: ‘Get back in the car!’ ” she said, recalling the moment she got out of the vehicle.
“Look at this size of me. I’m 5 feet 5 and 118 pounds.”
The policeman said she lived in a high-crime neighborhood and there could be drug in her home. He checked her driving licenses, then left without mentioning the drug issue.
“I was shaken,” she said.
The 57-year-old Pilates instructor then filed a complaint to 311 – the city’s public service call center, but finally gave up to the long time taken for an examination.
Serradilla, who is Hispanic, described what she believed the police’s stereotype. A neighbor of hers got frustrated after being stopped around 20 times. He is African American, in his 20s, wearing baggy pants and a baseball cap.
New Yorkers on Tuesday selected a new mayor who will deal with the stop-and-frisk legacy. While police said the tactic brought down crime rate, many would say it has become symbolic of the city’s division and racial issues.
The police always target specific people, said Andres Lin Prudencio, a 19-year-old student born of Hispanic and Chinese parents. He is studying computer engineering and wants to work as a technician for the police.
Still, he kept being stopped by police who would look into his backpack and sometimes require him to put his hands behind his head to examine his body.
“It’s not fair, he said.
“First time, it’s accepted. Second time, I got tired a little bit. Many times, I got tired and sick.”
He has given up his favorite hoodies to avoid being stopped. His parents have told him to try to “walk normally” in the street, he said.
For Serradilla, stop-and-frisk represents what she calls a hyperbolic reaction in the city to race.
“Can we start to separate the color of your skin from the behavior and know that you are being targeted because of the behavior not because of the color of your skin?”, she said.
The police stopped New York residents more than half a million times last year, said New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), a non-profit organization supporting civil liberties and rights.
55 percent of those stopped were black, 32 percent Latino and 10 percent white, the NYCLU said, quoting police data. The racial percentage breakdown had been pretty similar since 2002.
The crime rate also fell 29 percent in 2010 from 2001, according to police data cited by the organization.
Putting aside stop-and-frisk would only increase crimes in the city, said Thomas Botti, a handyman and resident in Windsor Terrace. Despite strongly supporting stop-and-frisk, he said the city should have more police presence in the neighborhoods.
“When I grew up in New York, there were always neighborhood cops – cops on the beat,” he said.
Serradilla said she had a mixed opinion about the police’s tactic. Crime in her neighborhood has reduced since it began. But the policy was conducted excessively, she said.
“Stop-and-frisk — I don’t think that’s the real issue,” she said.
“The bigger issue is we’ve lost so much community policing to build a better relationship between the police and the community that we have to go to this extreme of stop-and-frisk.”