Imagine your doctor tells you that you have a serious wasting condition. Your physician prescribes a powerful kind of therapy that has serious side effects similar to chemotherapy's. You ask what evidence there is of the therapy's benefits. Your physician cheerfully says there's none. She is prescribing the therapy because it has long been used -- not because there's real evidence that it does any good.
This, in essence, is what commentators in Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere have recently proposed for the perennial challenge of gun violence: Return to an aggressive program of police stop-and-frisk to find and seize illegal weapons. Indeed, New York has already embarked on this program under the leadership of the new Mayor Eric Adams.
We agree with Adams and others about the importance of controlling violent crime. But we think that their solution, like that of our imaginary physician, comes with a fatal disadvantage: There is no reason to think it works, even as there is substantial evidence of the heavy toll that stop-and frisk has on those stopped by police.
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