Civil Liberties

New Study Indicates New York Might Be Better Off Cooling it With Petty Ticketing of Citizens

NYPD Chief Bratton holds firm for as many reasons for his forces to mess with citizens as they can get.


I have griped often here about the grim effects of what I call "petty law enforcement" on the life of citizens, particularly less well-to-do ones. The Wall Street Journal discusses a report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that might open the eyes of lawmakers and law enforcers to the trouble such enforcement creates for them. Of course, so far NYPD chief William Bratton wants to keep basically treating being in public as a young man as a ticketable offense, as the Journal notes. 

There is already an encouraging trend in the amount of mass ticketing declining in New York City:

Summons activity in the city has declined since its 2006 peak of 600,000 summonses, a trend attributed to lower rates of disorderly-conduct summonses given to 16- to 19-year-olds, according to the report, which analyzed data from the state Office of Court Administration from 2003 through 2013.

In the Bronx in 2006, for example, summonses were issued to 16- and 17-year-olds at a rate of 25 for every 100 in that age group. In 2013, that number was 9.7 for every 100.

The decline in citywide summonses continued in 2014 with 359,432 summonses issued, according to the NYPD, which issues 97% of the city's summonses.

The heart of why even the city should want to cool it even more:

The report also highlights the inefficiencies of the summons system, calling it a high-volume police activity that results in insignificant penalties. Nearly a quarter of the summonses issued between 2003 and 2013 were dismissed for legal insufficiencies or a technical defect; 41% resulted in a dismissal. One in five of the summonses issued resulted in a guilty finding, which comes with a fine ranging from $25 to $100.

Still, the impact of receiving a summons can be dramatic. A guilty plea can appear in background searches.

And a point that can't be stressed enough: the petty crap becomes real serious crap real quick if you aren't on the ball:

Not answering a summons also has consequences. During the past decade, about 36% of all summonses resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant because the recipient failed to appear in court. As of December 15, 14% of all summonses issued between 2003 and 2013 had an open arrest warrant.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Manhattan Democrat, wants to make  "public consumption of alcohol, bicycling on the sidewalk, being in a park after dark, failure to obey a park sign, littering (the offense used for public urination) and turnstile jumping—into civil violations." Bratton wants to continue to give his cops as many reasons to interact with and ticket citizens as he can get.

Hat tip: Ken Constantino