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Report: Under Eric Adams, the NYPD Is Giving Out Even More Bullshit Criminal Summonses to Black and Brown New Yorkers

Broken windows policing is back.

(Hell Gate)

After Mayor Eric Adams took office, the NYPD started ticketing more New Yorkers for low-level offenses that were supposed to be decriminalized years ago—and the racial disparities of who gets a ticket have only been increasing.

According to a report released on Monday by the Data Collaborative for Justice at John Jay College, the number of criminal summonses for offenses like public urination, littering, or breaking rules in New York City parks increased by 62 percent from 2021 to 2022, Adams's first year in office. 

"From 2020 to 2022, the NYPD issued over 85 percent of criminal summonses to Black or Hispanic people, who combine for only 52 percent of the City's population," the report found, while also noting that criminal summonses were issued at a rate 11.4 times higher for Black New Yorkers than white residents in 2022, as opposed to 8.9 times higher than in 2020. Under Adams, the report found, the racial disparities in policing are only growing, as the mayor has sought to increase enforcement of a number of quality-of-life offenses, with the number of criminal summonses handed out for an offense like having an open container skyrocketing. 

The report, which is the the second study released as part of the collaborative created in the aftermath of the 2020 uprisings against racist policing and which was commissioned by the City Council, has found that in both rich and poor neighborhoods, racial disparities in summonses persisted in 2022: 

In zip codes with a median household income below $35,000, police issued 97 percent of summonses to Black and Hispanic residents, who made up just 44 percent of the population. Similarly, zip codes with a median household income over $100,000 saw Black and Hispanic people receiving 73 percent of summonses, though they comprise 24 percent of the population.

(Data Collaborative for Justice)

Way back in 2016, the New York City Council sought to head this all off by decriminalizing a whole slew of quality-of-life offenses as part of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which aimed to keep New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system for things like smoking weed or public urination. Instead of issuing criminal summonses, which required New Yorkers to go to court or face serious consequences, the police were encouraged by the new law, as well as by prosecutors, to issue civil summonses, which came with a fine.

Over the past decade, criminal summonses plummeted by 90 percent, from 375,707 in 2013 to 36,621 in 2021, but experienced their first uptick since the reforms in 2022, under Mayor Adams—when the NYPD inexplicably began issuing criminal summonses again for offenses that were now eligible for civil summonses. 

According to the report, one particularly egregious example is tickets for drinking alcohol in public, which accounted for seven percent of criminal summonses in 2007, but jumped to 24 percent in 2022.

The report also found that most of these criminal summonses don't accomplish much beyond wasting everyone's time, making people miss work to show up to court. And if they don't show up, a warrant is issued for their arrest. According to the data cited in the report, 63 percent of criminal summonses issued in 2022 were dismissed outright, while another 16 percent were deemed "defective," meaning they were missing necessary information. Only nine percent of all criminal summonses from that year ended in a guilty plea or someone being found guilty, even though there are almost no criminal consequences, like jail time or a hefty fine, still on the books for them. 

(Data Collaborative for Justice)

In concluding the report, the authors wrote that the shift toward quality-of-life enforcement is a callback to an earlier and failed era of policing, reflecting "a purposeful reorientation of the NYPD towards greater low-level enforcement under the administration of Mayor Eric Adams on the premise that this will reduce major crime," and while "broken windows policing doesn't lead to a decrease in crime, it does involve more people in the criminal legal system and decreases trust in policing and the legal system." 

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