New York City’s city council is set to dilute a host of criminal laws including laws against public urination and excessive noise because council members believe too many members of minorities are getting arrested.
The New York Police Department already relaxed its enforcement of many quality-of-life laws after years of enforcing exactly such laws led to record lows of crime in the once-much-grittier city, reports The New York Times,
This relaxation strategy wasn’t enough for city lawmakers.
“We know that the system has been really rigged against communities of color in particular,” council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat, told the Times. “So the question has always been, what can we do in this job to minimize unnecessary interaction with the criminal justice system, so that these young people can really fulfill their potential?”
On Monday, Mark-Viverito and other council members will introduce a set of bills called the Criminal Justice Reform Act. The laws are designed to make several quality-of-life laws much more toothless. Misdemeanor crimes to be nearly-but-not-quite decriminalized include public urination, excessive noise, drinking in public, marijuana possession and miscellaneous public park-related infractions.
If passed, the new laws would encourage police not to arrest sidewalk tinklers and violators of the other laws. Instead, cops would usually give out civil summonses. Recipients would then be ordered to appear in a court managed by New York City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
First-time offender fines would range from $25 to $250. People too poor to pay could instead perform community service.
Police would still retain the option of actually arresting offenders.
The police department has insisted on the option to arrest. Without it, they warn, keeping law and order will be much harder.
“We have been supportive of having a civil option for the police,” NYPD spokesman Stephen P. Davis told the Times. “Where appropriate, the civil option is probably going to be the go-to option,” he said, but police want to retain discretion to arrest.
Quality-of-life laws in general — and the problem of public urination in particular — have become a source of passionate debate in New York City during the last year as the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken root and, simultaneously, unseemly people and various guttersnipes have begun peeing, pooping and masturbating in public with considerable frequency.
Over the summer, for example, the shenanigans of scruffy drifters were on full display behind a building on the small campus of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
“I have seen drug deals, public urination, defecation, masturbation in broad daylight in the Taras Shevchenko alley,” a Cooper Union professor told The New York Post. (RELATED: De Blasio’s New York: Prestigious College Now Home To Pooping, Masturbating Vagrants)
Bums across the city also praised de Blasio for rolling back enforcement against panhandling and public loitering. “I want to thank de Blasio for taking it easy on us. It’s easier for me to get by. Because of him, nobody bothers me,” one homeless man told the Post back in August.
De Blasio, who campaigned heavily on reducing homelessness, has remained publicly noncommittal on the quasi-decriminalization bill.
“The mayor has made a clear commitment to reducing unnecessary arrests while protecting the quality of life of all our residents,” de Blasio spokeswoman Monica Klein said in a milquetoast statement obtained by the Times.
The proposed Criminal Justice Reform Act is a significant step away from the “broken windows” principles of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, which initiated a dramatic drop in crime in New York City beginning in the early 1990s.