Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NYC Council looks to decriminalize low-level violations

New York City police officers issued between 1,200 and 1,600 summonses per day between 2003 and 2013, for “quality of life” violations of various municipal codes, according to a new study from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, reported The Crime Report.
The college’s president, Jeremy Travis, presented the study’s findings Monday to the non-profit watchdog group the Citizens Crime Commission.
“Summonses for low-level violations constitute the most frequent form of contact the public has with law enforcement,” said President Travis. “Our findings point to the need for policy discussions about this important, and under-examined, aspect of our criminal justice system.”
The dramatic drop in violent crime has often been attributed to the Broken Window Theory of law enforcement, wherein the police crack down on low level quality of life crimes that undermine a neighborhood.  Mayor Rudy Giuliani and William Bratton championed the idea in the 1990s.
Yet,  the New York City Council plan to decriminalize low-level violations like public urination or drinking alcohol in public from an open container has prompted intense debate among state and city officials about how these so-called quality-of-life offenses should be treated by police and the courts, reports the Wall Street Journal. A path to a possible compromise appeared to be emerging as the state’s top judge voiced support for moving some of these offenses to civil court. Police Commissioner William Bratton, who has voiced strong reservations about decriminalizing any offenses, said he believes there is a “real opportunity for all of us to find common ground on this issue.”
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