New York City kicked off 2022 with a newly elected Black mayor and newly appointed Black police commissioner. Six months later, Black arrest rates skyrocketed.
Under Eric Adams and Keechant Sewell, police arrested Black New Yorkers for 3,348 more felonies and 3,935 more misdemeanors between January and June compared to the first half of 2021, according to statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice. And through such data, NYPD watchdog Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) finds increased patterns of discriminatory “broken windows” practices.
“It’s not the personnel, it’s the policy—and the policy is ‘broken windows’ aversive policing, which essentially involves arresting, harassing, intimidating low-income communities of color,” said Robert Gangi, PROP’s director. “Focusing on punishing people arrested, people who are charged with low level offenses that have been decriminalized in white communities, that’s the policy.”
And policy is seen through the numbers. PROP found New Yorkers of color made up roughly 90% of arrests for minor infractions like fare evasion, possession of forged instruments and assault of the third degree. According to Gangi, these crimes often sound worse than they are, and are usually plead down to lesser charges or outright dismissed. Assault of the third degree, the leading arrest cause for Black New Yorkers, typically involves fighting and is only a misdemeanor. Forged instruments tend to be outdated or self-administered license plates, according to Gangi. And fare evasion is, well, evading fares on public transportation.
But “broken windows” don’t mean broken promises. Gangi says Adams, who served 22 years on the force, ran on his police credentials. So more aggressive policing is in line with his mayoral campaign. But Adams also promised to reform the NYPD. Gangi hopes PROP’s findings offer a pathway to change.
“Our purpose is to educate the public and put pressure on the politicians regarding police arrest practices, which are starkly racist in their implementation every day,” he said. “There’s no question that the cops target and harass low income people of color on a regular basis. And also vulnerable groups within that general population. So unhoused people, people who are mentally challenged, people who are unemployed. Those New Yorkers are the people, for the most part, who the NYPD arrest.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w