Tags: New York City | police department | crime | broken windows

NYC Moves to Roll Back Key 'Broken Windows' Laws

By    |   Monday, 20 Apr 2015 04:10 PM

New York City government and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton are heading for a standoff about a proposal to overhaul the Police Department's "broken windows"  philosophy of punishing people for smaller crimes in hopes of stemming more serious ones.

The office of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is working out a plan to decriminalize some offenses, such as public urination, drinking on the streets and fare beating that fill the criminal courts, and make them civil offenses instead that would  require only a fine, reports The New York Daily News.

But Bratton is concerned that if his officers could no longer arrest people for such offenses, and if people who miss their court dates would face fines instead of warrants, they wouldn't take violations seriously.

"I’m not supportive of the idea of civil summonses for these offenses because I think that they’d be basically totally ignored, that they don’t have any bite to them, if you will," he told council members in March.

On Friday, Susan Herman, deputy commissioner for collaborative policing, said talks with the council were still going on.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio supports reforming the summons procedures, but his spokeswoman, Monica Klein, would not comment on whether he specifically supports the council speaker's plan.

The seven offenses that could head to civil rather than criminal proceedings account for nearly half of all summonses issued by the NYPD between 2001 and June  2014, and have resulted in more than a half-million open arrest warrants, according to the state Office of Court Administration.

The offenses include public consumption of alcohol, public urination, bicycling on the sidewalk, being in a park after dark, failure to obey a park sign, littering, and making unreasonable amounts of noise.

"All the consequences of the criminal justice system would be removed and people would just be civilly responsible for their conduct," said City Councilman Rory Lancman, D-Queens, who chairs the Courts and Legal Services Committee, and is working with Mark-Viverito on the concept.

In that case, such offenses would be "akin to a parking ticket," said Lancman, which should be more than enough of a deterrent.

Currently, fines can be mailed in only for cases of public urination and open container, and Lancman said there are people who are concerned about allowing people to pay fines remotely for criminal offenses.

"When it’s a civil offense, we don’t have any problem letting people pay online or by mail without having to show up at all ... that would almost certainly mean you’d have a higher percentage of people paying a fine," Lancman said.

Another plan seeks changes in policy to allow people who evade fares to pay fines to the Transit Authority's Adjudication Bureau and not be hauled into criminal court.

Last year, The Daily News reported that fare evasion was one of the top jailable offenses in the city, with nearly 26,000 people being arrested.

Bratton says such arrests lead to a safer city, but critics say such policing targets blacks and Latinos, who accounted for 81 percent of the thousands of summonses issued last year.

Criminal summonses can also give young people criminal records that could make it difficult to get jobs or student loans, critics point out.

Many such summonses, though, end up being dismissed. Over the past 10 years that ended in June 2014, around 76 percent of the marijuana arrests were dropped, followed by loitering (69 percent); operating a motor vehicle in violation of the safety rules (67 percent); disorderly conduct (61 percent); and bicycling on the sidewalk (59 percent).

But crime is declining, said Bratton, and police are expected to have 1 million fewer interactions with the public this year after stop-and-frisk encounters have dropped.

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New York City government and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton are heading for a standoff about a proposal to overhaul the Police Department's "broken windows" philosophy of punishing people for smaller crimes in hopes of stemming more serious ones.
New York City, police department, crime, broken windows
616
2015-10-20
Monday, 20 Apr 2015 04:10 PM
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