Do traffic stops in high-crime areas deter crime and protect public safety?
For many police agencies, the answer is obvious. Making officers a “visible” pro-active presence on the streets has long been regarded as a valid law enforcement strategy.
But when a group of researchers decided to test that proposition, they came up with a different answer.
The researchers, in a paper for the Stanford Computational Policy Lab, analyzed traffic stops during 2017 in Nashville, Tenn., where police have the notable distinction of making more traffic stops per capita than anywhere else in the nation, and which was the subject of a 1999 report by the American civil Liberties Union, “Driving While Black,” that noted the disproportional impact the strategy has on African-Americans.
They found, instead, that traffic stops “had no discernible effect on serious crime rates, and only infrequently resulted in the recovery of contraband of a custodial arrest.”