Gang Policing: The Post Stop-and-Frisk Justification for Profile-Based Policing

5 Denver Criminal Law Review 1 (2015)

32 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2015

Date Written: May 30, 2015


This article argues, via data obtained by FOIL from the NYPD, that, like other jurisdictions across the nation, the NYPD has manipulated and exaggerated the threat of gang crime in order to generate a “moral panic” and shore up support for intensive and unjustified policing and surveillance of youth of color based on non-criminal conduct. This surveillance extends to social media and generates an extensive database of alleged gang and crew members. The NYPD’s Gang Division, which, despite decreasing crime, has quadrupled its officers as part of “Operation Crew Cut”, is but one example of a dangerous national trend. As Broken Windows policing and the overuse of stop-and-frisk have garnered public criticism, the NYPD has shifted tactics, increasingly relying on an overblown narrative of gang and crew violence as a justification to police non-criminal conduct - a narrative that allows law enforcement to avoid oversight and transparency. This article challenges the NYPD’s gang narrative as a hollow justification for profile-based policing that plays on the fears of the public while continuing to over-police youth and communities of color.

Keywords: policing, gangs, gang databases, moral panic, surveillance, operation crew cut, profiling

Suggested Citation

Howell, Babe, Gang Policing: The Post Stop-and-Frisk Justification for Profile-Based Policing (May 30, 2015). 5 Denver Criminal Law Review 1 (2015), Available at SSRN:

Babe Howell (Contact Author)

CUNY School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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