NYPD

NYPD Throws People Out of Their Homes Without Ever Proving Criminal Activity

The city's version of 'nuisance abatement' laws are designed to be abused.

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"Outta the way! We've got lives to ruin!"
Credit: André Gustavo Stumpf / photo on flickr

It is not unusual for cities (both large and small) to have nuisance abatement laws that allow for landlords or government officials to evict people from residences when there's chronic illegal behavior taking place there. Often it's tied to the relentless, doomed war against drugs and vice, trying to shut down drug dens and brothels (that exist because of the black market the bans create in the first place, but never mind).

But as the New York Daily News, working with ProPublica, have discovered, New York City's nuisance abatement laws are particularly bad. They're being used to eject people out of their homes by the New York Police Department, but in many cases, the city has failed to prove criminal activity actually happened. They reviewed more than 500 nuisance abatement actions over 18 months in 2013 and 2014 and discovered that half of nearly 300 people who gave up their leases or banned from their homes had not been convicted of any crimes. Of those, 96 had their cases dismissed and 44 faced no criminal prosecution at all.

The Daily News provides plenty of real world examples of how this plays out:

A man was prohibited from living in his family home and separated from his young daughter over gambling allegations that were dismissed in criminal court. A diabetic man said he was forced to sleep on subways and stoops for a month after being served with a nuisance abatement action over low-level drug charges that also never led to a conviction. Meanwhile, his elderly mother was left with no one to care for her.

How do the police get away with this? Blame laws from the 1970s designed to clean druggies and prostitutes from Times Square. Police have since expanded the use of the laws far beyond the initial intent. They're enforced as civil matters, often much like what happens with asset forfeiture cases. Not only does the city not have to get a conviction first, making it a civil case means that those facing eviction don't have guaranteed access to a lawyer, unless they can pay for one themselves. And given that the law is primarily used in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods (only five of the people who were booted from their homes were white), that's not likely to happen.

And there's so much more. One of the officers behind some of the nuisance abatement cases is the "most-sued" officer on the NYPD's force, according to the New York Daily News. He has been named in 32 different lawsuits that have cost the city $1.4 million in payouts. He has been put on desk duty for allegedly fabricating buys from confidential informants to use to get search warrants. In addition, police often ask judges to lock tenants out of their residences immediately as an "emergency," even though there is no evidence that there's any emergency taking place. These actions often take place months after the reported offenses. Many judges simply approve the requests anyway, but some have taken notice and decline, giving residents a chance to appeal.

Read the whole sordid story here. The Daily News tracked down Sidney Baumgarten, the former city official who had the law drafted in the 1970s. Even he thinks it's being abused and described the police department's behavior as "unconstitutional" and "overreaching."

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  1. “The Daily News tracked down Sidney Baumgarten, the former city official who had the law drafted in the 1970s. Even he thinks it’s being abused and described the police department’s behavior as “unconstitutional” and “overreaching.””

    Shorter Baumgarten: “When I built my monster, I was trying to help humanity!”

    1. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND.

    2. But, 9/11! I win.

      1. Let me finish! New York values… your property.

  2. And given that the law is primarily used in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods (only five of the people who were booted from their homes were white), that’s not likely to happen.

    Maybe certain groups are just more likely to be nuisances.

    1. You can tell because of the NYPD stats on it.

    2. Maybe certain groups are just more likely to be nuisances”

      More likely that certain zip codes are more likely to not be able to afford a lawyer.

      1. Maybe Donald Trump needed the property….heck, they were probably illegals or anchors anyway. Damn Canadians.

      2. not. mutually. exclusive.

  3. Grandpa, what was due process like?

  4. When did the Daily News decide to do actual journalism? Also, I wonder what PBA president Pat Lynch thinks about this.

  5. We don’t want your kind around here.

  6. Which one of Trump’s new properties are they trying to clear space for?

    1. Or Ratner, or… Hell, just examine the mayor’s donor list.

  7. NYC is like a third world country. Even flying into the airports makes it feel that way.

  8. I believe progressives call these laws, rules and procedures “quality of life” issues.

  9. Manhattan Judge Michael Stallman, routinely crossed out that portion of applications. Stallman said he does this because the NYPD’s attorneys never have any evidence of ongoing illegal activity or information about the outcomes of the underlying criminal cases.
    “I can’t remember the last time that I’ve ever had information about the disposition of a criminal case,” he said. “I’ve repeatedly indicated that it’s difficult for me to evaluate a civil case where I don’t even know whether the criminal case is pending.”

    According to the (depressing) chart, Judge Stallman signs off on 4% of the applications where others routinely sign them all. I wonder what warrant applications look like for these judges, how many of them just rubberstamp whatever the cops ask for because, you know, they’re just totally unbiased in their belief that cops are always right.

    And then there’s this joke: The department’s chief spokesman, Stephen Davis, said in a statement that the suits are intended to prevent crimes from reoccurring at ‘repeat offender’ locations. “Each nuisance abatement order and settlement is signed-off by a judge.” Davis added. Each and every one of them, yessir. Each and every one, that’s how you know they’re legit.

  10. “Dammit, O’Malley! Where are all these homeless people coming from?!?”

    “I don’t know, Sarge. Must be the economy…”

  11. Police have since expanded the use of the laws far beyond the initial intent.

    Mission creep. Where’s my shocked face.

  12. Often it’s tied to the relentless, doomed war against drugs and vice, trying to shut down drug dens and brothels (that exist because of the black market the bans create in the first place, but never mind).

    Wait! Is Scott saying there wold be no brothels if there were no ban on prostitution? Because I am pretty sure they do exist in countries where prostitution is legal.

    1. I think Scott is saying that the drug dens & brothels exist in private homes in residential areas because of the black market created by the bans. If those activities would be legal, satisfying the demand could happen in normal commercial environments.

  13. “Not only does the city not have to get a conviction first, making it a civil case means that those facing eviction don’t have guaranteed access to a lawyer, unless they can pay for one themselves. And given that the law is primarily used in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods (only five of the people who were booted from their homes were white), that’s not likely to happen.”

    I think the solution here is obvious.

    The minorities in New York need to vote for Democrats even harder.

    If they all vote for the Democrat machine even harder, then maybe the machine will stop crushing them in its gears.

    1. But whatever they do? They should never vote against the Democrat machine.

      Because the Republicans in Montana are racist AND they’re against gay marriage.

      And if you don’t understand that logic, then your’e a stupid honky.

    2. In fairness, this study was when Bloomberg was mayor, a Republican-turned-whatever the fuck.

      That said, I doubt it’ll get any better under DeBlasio…

      1. The Philly MOVE confrontations were done under Frank Rizzo, white democrat, in 1978, and Wilson B Goode, black democrat, in 1985. When it came to law enforcement in Philly, Rizzo, former police commissioner, was a particularly vicious bastard.

  14. Generally speaking folks. Like the rabbit said..”FYTW”

  15. I can hear Don Henley crooning It’sa New York nut-punch.

  16. 32 lawsuits, $1.4 million in payouts, and the responsible cop is still on the job. Aren’t unions and public officials wonderful?

  17. Stupid punk cops, go find some REAL crime to pursue!

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

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