Bill de Blasio

NYPD Busts Lots of Pot Smokers Despite Drop in Street Stops

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Office of the Mayor

At the end of his first month in office, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was "ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men." New data show that the number of street stops by the NYPD fell dramatically during the first quarter of this year, when cops reported 14,261 such encounters, compared to 99,788 in the first three months of 2013. But that 86 percent drop was not accompanied by a commensurate reduction in the number of low-level marijuana arrests, which often result from stops in which police find pot during pat-downs or instruct people to empty their pockets.

According to data from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project (MARP), there were 7,017 pot busts from January through March this year, just 8.5 percent fewer than the 7,671 during the same period last year. Marijuana arrests fell substantially during the last two years of Michael Bloomberg's administration and continued falling in 2014, from 2,786 in January to 1,796 in December. The NYPD under its new commissioner, Bill Bratton, seems to be reversing that downward trend:

In March 2014, the NYPD under de Blasio and Bratton made more marijuana possession arrests than in any month in the last six months under Bloomberg and [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly. New York City's marijuana possession arrests in the first quarter of 2014 are higher than in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. In fact, the NYPD made more marijuana possession arrests in March 2014 than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013.

MARP says Bratton is on track to match the 28,644 pot busts in 2013. That number was down 43 percent from a peak of 50,484 in 2011 but still above the historical norm. The NYPD averaged 2,259 minor pot busts each year under Ed Koch and 982 under David Dinkins. Even Rudy Giuliani, who began the pot crackdown that Bloomberg continued and escalated, managed less than 25,000 a year.

These numbers should embarrass De Blasio, given his talk of the "two New Yorks" and his opposition to racially biased policies. As usual, the overwhelming majority of marijuana arrestees in the first quarter of this year (86 percent) were blacks or Hispanics, even though survey data indicate that whites are at least as likely to smoke pot. Most were men, and 70 percent were between the ages of 16 and 29. MARP notes that police made one arrest on the Upper East Side and four on the Upper West Side, compared to 111 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and 438 in East New York.

These disparities have something to do with how the NYPD allocates its resources, of course, and they may also have to do with different rates of outdoor pot smoking. Contrary to the impression you might get from all these small-time pot busts, simple possession of marijuana (up to 25 grams, about nine-tenths of an ounce) was "decriminalized" in New York state nearly four decades ago. It is supposed to be a citable offense, meaning you cannot be arrested for it. But "public display" of marijuana—consuming or holding it in open sight—remains a misdemeanor.

It's not clear how many of the 7,000 or so New Yorkers arrested for public display during the first three months of this year were actually guilty of it, and how many were illegally tricked or coerced into revealing marijuana that otherwise would have remained concealed. Either way, police should have better things to do, especially given the racial and socioeconomic distribution of these arrests, which even if unintended seems a far cry from equal treatment under the law. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports decriminalizing public display, and so do many state legislators (although not enough to pass a bill yet). But De Blasio and Bratton do not have to wait for new legislation. They can tell cops to stop clogging the criminal justice system with these petty, unfair, gratuitous, and frequently illegal arrests.

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  1. New data show that the number of street stops by the NYPD fell dramatically during the first quarter of this year, when cops reported 14,261 such encounters, compared to 99,788 in the first three months of 2013.

    I think the key word there is “reported.”

  2. These numbers should embarrass De Blasio

    They won’t.

    You’re missing a fundamental aspect to this. The city generates a significant amount of revenue from these arrests, and expects it. If stopping Stop and Frisk causes arrests to go down–and therefore revenue–it will have to be made up somewhere else. And we see how here. These arrests are like giving out lots of speeding tickets or nailing tons of people for tiny infractions like having a taillight out. Except for the fact that in these cases, people have to go to court and have their lives fucked with. Not that De Blasio gives a shit.

    1. Not that De Blasio gives a shit.
      reply to this

      What? I thought that De Blasio won because he is going to make all NYers equal?

      1. Well, to be fair, they’re all equally fucked..

    2. and therefore revenue

      When I read fines referred to as “revenue” I feel an almost overwhelming urge to smash something. That it doesn’t seem to register on my fellow citizen that this is a tacit admission that they are running a protection racket makes it even worse.

      1. I remember when, as a kid or teenager, I learned that fines and penalties were included in the revenue projections for government. That’s when I realized it was all a scam, and fines and penalties are just another, differently applied tax (and therefore theft), and that police officers mostly function as tax collectors with guns.

        1. Meanwhile, when people report actual crimes with actual victims, the cops don’t do shit.

          That was my wake-up call. After seeing the zeal with which they go after victimless crimes, and then seeing them not doing anything at all when there is a crime victim, I realized that the only people they serve and protect are themselves.

          1. “.. I realized that the only people they serve and protect are themselves.”

            Comptrollers are people too…

    3. Rand Paul should campaign on passing a law forcing all entities that collect fines and other such ‘revenue’ to distribute it all automatically back to the constituents of that entity. NYPD collects x amount of money, NYC citizens get a check every year for their share.

      Assuming it’s constitutional.

      1. He should totally do that. It would do a couple of things. First, it would help inoculate him against the inevitable “racism” charges the Progs will be dropping. Second, it would totally stick it to the Progs who celebrate DeBlasio as some kind of ideal politician of the future.

        1. “help inoculate him against the inevitable “racism” charges the Progs will be dropping”

          He could pull a little black girl out of the way of an oncoming train and then give her free eye surgery to restore her sight, and the progs would still be calling him a racist. And black people would vote against him 85%-15%.

          1. If Paul managed to get 15% of the black vote in a general election, the Democratic candidate would likely be doomed. The Democrats have lost so much of the white vote and the country is so closely divided that anything short of 90+% of the black vote likely kills their chances in a national election.

            They have gone full Al Sharpton in the last couple of years because they have no other choice.

            1. Good point. Remember, Rand and those in his position don’t need *every* vote from Dem constituencies, they just need a chunk of them to ruin Donk chances of winning.

  3. I’d be curious to know how many of these weed arrests are just tacked on to some other infraction, such as open container, disorderly conduct, etc. I don’t doubt for a moment that the NYPD spend a disproportionate amount of their time hassling the poor (who are often minorities and can’t readily fight back) just wondering if the focus is not so much on weed, really, but rather a systemic NYPD trolling for numbers to pad their stats and justify their funding. I think that is more likely the case, and an even bigger problem.

    1. When you hear progs talk about “helping the poor” this is what they mean – whether they know it or not.

  4. Contrary to the impression you might get from all these small-time pot busts, simple possession of marijuana (up to 25 grams, about nine-tenths of an ounce) was “decriminalized” in New York state nearly four decades ago. It is supposed to be a citable offense, meaning you cannot be arrested for it. But “public display” of marijuana?consuming or holding it in open sight?remains a misdemeanor.

    All it takes to convert a possession citation to a public display arrest is a cop saying it was public display. Worst case, it become a “cop said, he said” issue in court, and we all know that the cop is going to win that one.

    As long as cops are rewarded for public display arrests, and they are because those arrests pad the numbers, there are going to be lots of public display arrests.

  5. I find it difficult to believe there are this many obvious pot smokers in the City. I think these arrests are mostly cops framing people to get their arrest numbers up. I can’t see how the NYPD could make that many arrests without a concerted effort to harass and frame people.

  6. “But that 86 percent drop was not accompanied by a commensurate reduction in the number of low-level marijuana arrests..”

    Soo, the part that I’m not understanding here is… If the dope arrest numbers are the same, during and after S&F, were they deliberately attributing ‘stop and frisk violate your civil rights’ to these arrests to maintain the illusion of effectiveness/usefulness all of the long? If S&F didn’t really serve it’s alleged purpose in removing guns off the street, and didn’t make any discernible difference in the volume of drug arrests, how in the hell do they still have the balls to tout its necessity, and lament its “passing” with a straight face… disingenuous does not even come close to the term for it. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something here?

    1. Nope. They baldface lie to the public every day. Ask them if they have quotas, and try and stop laughing after they assure you they don’t.

      1. One or both of two things is true here. Either S&F never resulted in any increased arrests and was done just to harass young black men to keep them out of the good neighborhoods or the NYPD is still conducting S&F same as before despite their leadership’s lies to the contrary.

        1. See my first comment.

          1. You don’t know what is not reported.

  7. continued falling in 2014, from 2,786 in January to 1,796 in December.

    You sure you don’t want me as your proofreader?

    1. Also, how are you getting AM time stamps on comments on a thread whose time stamp is PM of that day?

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