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Misleading Quinnipiac Poll Obscures Real Problems of Policing in Public Housing

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6/12/14

Poll Questions Include Inaccurate Data, Rely on False Premises

(New York, NY)--A poll released today by Quinnipiac University relies on inaccurate data and false premises to reach an unsubstantiated conclusion that city voters want the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) to resume vertical patrols of public housing hallways when, in fact, they never stopped.

The poll asks: "Do you think the police should or should not restore the program where they patrolled public housing projects and asked people in the hallways for ID?"

The question is misleading because it suggests that police patrols of public housing developments have ended.  In fact, NYPD officers continue to patrol hallways, stairwells, and other areas in New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA”) buildings, a practice known as “vertical patrols.”

In addition, the question fails to recognize the many other measures that public housing residents need to keep their homes safe, including functioning locks, working intercom systems, surveillance cameras, and well-lit common areas.

In 2010, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (“LDF”), together with the Legal Aid Society, filed a class action lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s practice of routinely subjecting public housing residents and their guests to illegal stops and false arrests.  The lawsuit does not seek to stop the NYPD from conducting vertical patrols.  Rather, the lawsuit is designed to ensure that vertical patrols are conducted in a lawful manner, and that NYPD officers do not continue to routinely stop and arrest public housing residents even though they are doing nothing wrong. Unlawful stops and arrests disproportionately affect communities of color. 

These police encounters not only violate the rights of NYCHA residents and guests, but they are also ineffective as a crime reduction strategy. Discriminatory and unlawful law enforcement practices create mistrust of police and make it harder for officers to do their jobs.

The Quinnipiac poll is also inaccurate because it assumes that N.Y.P.D. officers have the right to stop and demand identification from anyone in NYCHA residences, for any reason, or for no reason at all.  That isn’t the case in public housing—or anywhere else in New York City. 

The poll also perpetuates the inaccurate narrative that decreases in stop-and-frisks have increased crime. N.Y.P.D. Commissioner Bratton himself disagrees and said: “The idea that stop-and-frisk is down by tens of thousands . . . has that had an impact on public safety in the city? I don’t think so.”

LDF strongly disagrees with Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll's statement that civil liberties organizations are "out of touch with the people they speak for" by opposing false trespass stops and arrests. Long-term solutions to crime in public housing will require repairing the relationship between public housing residents and the N.Y.P.D.

"The recent stabbings of two children in public housing are tragic and senseless," said Ria Tabacco Mar of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "We owe it to these children, as well as to their communities, to find meaningful solutions that will ensure that public housing residents have the same safety, security, and respect from the police as all New Yorkers," Ms. Mar added.