When it comes to New York Police Department tactics, few provoke as much debate as “Stop and Frisk.” Last year, the NYPD performed 685,724 stops. Stephen Davis, a resident of Harlem, was one of them.
“I was on 125th Street, coming out an apartment and police stopped me and two friends because they said we looked suspicious. They stopped us and they frisked us. They found two bags of marijuana on me. I spent 90 days in jail because of that,” Davis explained while standing outside a deli in Harlem’s Little Senegal.
“They wouldn’t have looked at me twice if I was white. We were just walking, no probable cause. I know they do it to look for weapons but I didn’t have no weapons on me.”
The fact that Davis served jail time makes his case rare. Last year, police uncovered contraband in only two percent of stops and made arrests in just six percent of them. Another six percent resulted in summonses while 88 percent resulted in nothing at all. Nevertheless, the use of this strategy has risen by over 600 percent since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002.
As they do so, their security needs demand that the New York Police Department (NYPD) wreak havoc on both pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area, imposing restrictions that can cause huge headaches for business close to the U.N.
“The General Assembly affects us greatly. Every year, it’s the same thing. When the police shut down 2nd Avenue and 46th Street, it’s very bad for us,” says storeowner Monica Lee, who didn’t hesitate to share her displeasure at declining profits.
“They make people show ID to cross the street and customers can’t park their cars outside like usual. We just wait for this week to go by every year. It hurts our business but there’s no use complaining to the NYPD because even if I complained, it wouldn’t change anything.”
Everyone in the neighborhood doesn’t share Lee’s frustration though. Just one block west, on the other side of 2nd Ave, where the police barricades on roads leading to the U.N. end, Steve Dobos of Artisan Cleaners is sporting a much happier demeanor.
Despite a financial situation that he describes as difficult, shop owner Momodou M’Baye stands resolutely at the doorway of New Africa Music and Video in Harlem. Without a deluge of customers to interrupt him, he speaks at length regarding political events in his native Senegal.
“I wouldn’t say that the situation is dangerous. There’s no danger but [Senegalese President] Macky Sall’s latest decisions aren’t good,” he contends.
Back home, torrential rains have battered Dakar since mid-August and caused floods that killed 13 people and displaced at least 5,000 others. The rising waters also unearthed artifacts that were buried several thousand years ago and brought Senegal’s more recent political divisions to the surface along with them.
In response to the human and material losses, Senegalese President Macky Sall cut short a trip to South Africa and proposed to scrap the senate and the vacant vice-presidency in order to, as he put it, divert approximately $15 million in savings to invest in flood prevention.
Less than a month later, the national assembly voted in favor of his proposal despite resistance from the senate. The decision left 100 senators, most of which were handpicked by Sall’s predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, jobless.