The Charlottesville Police Department’s use of what it calls “investigative detentions” was at its lowest point as the coronavirus pandemic started to restrict public life in March, and was continuing an overall decline based on data presented by the city.
Since data was first presented, the average number of officer-initiated stops is down by 48%, arrests are down 45%, the number of people encountered has dropped 42% and overall encounters are down 42%.
Black people are still far more likely to encounter an officer in the city than are white people based on their percentage of the population.
Since the data was first presented in September 2018, at least 931 people have been stopped across 734 encounters in so-called “stop-and-frisks.” Of those 496, or 53% were black, and 427, or 46%, were white.
Since then, police have conducted 403 arrests, of which 204 were white people and 197 were black.
The number of encounters could be higher because, before December, the information didn’t factor in people who were stopped more than once. The public data presented for the past four months does not indicate that anyone was stopped more than once.
Between December and March, police stopped an average of 43 people a month, down 12% compared to December 2018 to March 2019. However, police arrested an average of 18 people a month, up 4% from the same comparable period.
In those four months, police stopped 174 people.
Of those, 99 were black and 75 were white. Seventy-three people were arrested, with 41 of them white and 32 black. About 42% of people stopped were not arrested.
The total number of encounters was lower than any other four-month period in the past year.
The most stops occurred in Belmont, with 31 encounters, followed by 10th and Page at 15 and downtown at 14.
Black people were stopped 24 times in Belmont, 12 in 10th and Page and eight times around Garrett Street. White people were stopped 11 times downtown and seven each on the Downtown Mall, Belmont and the Northeast neighborhood.
December saw the highest number of stops since December 2018 with 56. March, the second half of which saw increased restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic, was tied with November for the lowest number of encounters since data was first reported, at 28.
Department spokesman Tyler Hawn noted that officers are not conducting investigative detentions for potential violations of Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order.
The order also went into effect in the last week of March, so more accurate data on its effect would be reflected in April numbers.
The data provided also only includes information on why someone was arrested in an officer-initiated stop, not a stop based on a dispatch call. For those, the data only lists whether someone was arrested or not and doesn’t say why they were arrested.
In officer-initiated detentions, 36 of 61 people encountered were arrested. Of those, 19 were black and 17 were white.
The most frequent charge for black people in officer-initiated detentions was narcotics, unspecified “other” and minor personal or property crime.
White people most frequently received alcohol charges, followed by warrants, narcotics and minor personal or property crime.
Overall, Belmont has seen the most people stopped at 110, followed by downtown with 85, The Corner with 79, the Downtown Mall with 57 and Fifeville at 55.
Charlottesville officers stop, on average, 45 people a month across 35 encounters leading to 19 arrests. Black people are stopped an average of 24 times a month, compared with 20 white people.
Based on their percentage of the city’s population, about 17%, black people are more likely to be stopped by an officer in the city.