By Tilak Mehta (Editor-in-Chief).
New York City officials are easing up on low-level quality of life offenses. As of March 7, Manhattan has decriminalized public drinking, public urination, littering, and some subway infractions.
If the offender is a threat to himself and others, he may be arrested. Otherwise, public drinking and these other minor offenses may result in a court summons and a fine, but will often only earn a warning.
Senior Niel Shah says the benefits of extend beyond saving officers paperwork. “Decriminalization should help the national issue of overcrowded jails and prevent civil infraction offenders from serving jail time,” said Shah.
Shah says the next target for decriminalization should be marijuana possession and that these laws should not be constricted to only Manhattan.
The New York County district attorney’s office says the change was made in order to allow the NYPD to devote its resources to investigating more serious crimes and reducing the amassing amount of Criminal Court cases by about 10,000 cases annually.
“Citizens’ taxes pay for police and I do not think tax money should be spent on hours and hours that officers spend writing up littering reports and open container infractions,” said senior Noah Kurland.
Critics of the law change say that it demonstrates that Officials do not care about the condition of the public parts of the city.
Editor of New York’s City Journal Matthew Hennessy says the smell of urine will linger throughout the city.
Senior Andrew Filipkowski says this is a digression for New York City. “I am disgusted that the City would encourage public urination and littering and decrease the sanitation standard of the city, which it has fought hard to improve over the years,” said Filipkowski.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. says that hours that officers would spend processing harmless crimes such as littering will now be spent keeping neighborhoods safe.
Controversy had built over the years regarding NYC’s use of the “broken-windows” theory, which states that minor offenses are predictors of future higher-level offenses.
The opposing argument against NYC police prosecuting low-level offenses is that they disproportionately target minorities and the impoverished. Statistics strongly support this case.
Although Latinos and blacks make up the minority of the population, they have received 81% of summonses issued in New York City since 2001.
Court summons for minor offenses as harmless as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can leave permanent scars on people’s records and prevent them from being hired, receiving student loans, and receiving housing.
“This should keep more non-violent people out of the system and not stop single-offenders from receiving jobs for a petty crime,” said senior Jonathan Nere.
In 2011, the NYPD handed out 124,498 summons for drinking in public, which is more summons than for any other offense.