Where Philly police are stopping the most pedestrians

Data released by the department didn’t tell the whole story.


Since 2014, Philadelphia Police have stopped pedestrians — sometimes in a stop-and-frisk-type manner — more times in the 24th police district covering Port Richmond, Kensington and parts of Juniata Park than any other police district in the city.

The Philadelphia Police Department recently released pedestrian and vehicle stop data as the department has come under fire in recent years and has been accused by groups like the ACLU of overusing stop-and-frisk as a way to single out racial minorities.

The practice was commonplace during the Nutter administration. Under him, then-Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey made it known he wasn’t opposed to using stop-and-frisk — the practice of a police officer searching someone on the street without a warrant — in order to get illegal guns and drugs off the streets. During his tenure, crime did dramatically reduce.

But that followed a nationwide trend of crime reduction during those years and some experts have said new police tactics and technology that helped authorities decrease crime rates in Philadelphia. In March of this year, the ACLU released a report claiming Philadelphia Police had failed to address problems related to unconstitutional searches since 2011 when the law firm of of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg entered into a consent decree with the city.

According to the report, 33 percent of all stops and 42 percent of all frisks were without reasonable suspicion (a lower standard than probable cause defined by a “reasonable” police officer suspecting criminal activity is occurring) in the first half of 2015. During the same time period, some 98 percent of stops didn’t result in the recovery of contraband and 77 percent of people stopped were racial minorities.

Here’s a look at the racial breakdown of pedestrian investigations since 2014:

When now-Mayor Jim Kenney was campaigning for office, he and other candidates running pledged to end stop-and-frisk in Philadelphia. Since Kenney was elected, that tune changed and his office now says it can’t simply end the practice of pedestrian investigations. But Kenney and new Police Commissioner Richard Ross say stop-and-frisk is no longer an encouraged practice in the Philadelphia Police department and arbitrarily searching pedestrians without cause isn’t acceptable. Instead, they say they’re more focused on a community-based policing model.

The Department teamed up with Open Data Philly and released data that showed pedestrian and vehicle investigations that have taken place since 2014. Part of the release was done in a narrative form where police explained why most stops took place where they did and compared their maps of stops with maps of where crime rates and shooting victims are the highest — though the ACLU controlled for crime rates in its analysis and still found a racial disparity in stops.

Because of the data police used, their own map looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.09.38 AM

But that map included all vehicle investigations in addition to pedestrian investigations. When we take out the vehicle investigations and focus only on pedestrians, the map looks different. Here, one police district emerges as the one that’s by far using the “pedestrian investigation” practice the most since 2014: the 24th. Higher rates of pedestrian stops also occurred in higher-crime neighborhoods in the city in parts of North, West and Southwest Philadelphia.

Not all these stops looked like your traditional stop-and-frisk procedure. Actually, most didn’t. The ACLU found the vast majority of stops by police (a number much lower than the police’s classification of “pedestrian investigations”) did not include a frisk. Of some 2,300 stops recorded by the ACLU in the first half of 2015, 14 percent were followed by a frisk.

Though the police department’s map seemed to indicate most of these types of investigations took place a bit west of the 24th district and were concentrated in North Central Philadelphia, there were actually a much higher number of pedestrian stops in the Kensington area. Many of the city’s most notorious drug corners are in the western portion of the 24th police district. The intersection of Kensington and Somerset, often cited as the largest drug corner in the city, falls under the 24th’s purview. (Though, that’s improved since 2013 when SEPTA police stationed officers in the area.)

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