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Stop-and-Frisk and Trust in Police in Chicago (WP-16-08)

Wesley G. Skogan

This working paper examines some of the consequences of stop and frisk as a law enforcement strategy. This is important because stop and frisk has become the crime-prevention strategy of choice in American policing. It is seen as increasing the perception among potential offenders that they face a high risk of being apprehended if they commit a crime or are carrying contraband, and thus reduces offending. This working paper examines some of the possible collateral consequences of turning to an aggressive stop and frisk style of policing. One is that – from the point of view of the citizens involved – these stops may seem unwarranted. Even in crime hot spots most people, most of the time, are just going about their daily lives, and the ability of the police to accurately select suitably hot people from among them is very limited. Another collateral consequence is that stops may be unfairly distributed. A risk is that their apparent race, age, social class and gender may provide the principal flags by which officers identify hot people for investigation. Third, the collateral damage of a stop and frisk crime prevention strategy may include undermining the legitimacy of the police, and perhaps that of the state. All of these potential consequences of stop and frisk are examined using a new survey that probed for reports of encounters with the Chicago police. 

Wesley G. Skogan, Professor of Political Science; Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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