NYPD

NYPD Hassles Small Businesses to Help Facilitate Warrantless Searches

The practice has been called "entrapment" and "a form of legal harassment and coercion."

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New York's nuisance abatement actions

A menace or any easy mark?
Flickr/Robert S.

aren't only being selectively used against people whom the police or their landlords wish to evict, they're now being used to bully small business owners in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Nuisance abatement laws are a throwback to the bad old days of 1970s-1980s New York, when open prostitution and drug dealing were Times Square's most identifiable traits, but these days, they are increasingly used as a means of bullying vulnerable hard-working people into helping the police increase their ability to surveil the area.

These civil lawsuits are being filed against "mom-and-pop" grocery stores (commonly known in New York as bodegas) and other businesses where police set up sting operations and then arrest and fine the store's owner.

For example, an undercover officer will wander the aisles of a store offering to sell a stolen iPad to a customer browsing for kitty litter or waiting in line for a sandwich. If that officer makes a sale, the nuisance abatement action is filed against the store's owner.

This actually happened to one upper Manhattan laundromat owner, Korean immigrant Sung Cho, who in the past had aided the local beat cops investigating crimes by sharing his sidewalk security camera's footage. But after a rogue sale of electronics took place on his premises, he found his store shuttered before he was even allowed a day in court.

According to the NYPD, the petty crime facilitated by the sting operation made Cho's store a "serious public nuisance" which "should not be allowed to remain open even one more day." Cho denied he facilitated any illegal activities and called the NYPD's operation "total entrapment." 

Details like these were released in a sweeping new report from the New York Daily News and ProPublica, which also noted that in many cases, the owners agree to settle under terms compelling them to install security cameras and electronic card readers which capture the IDs of customers, both of which the police are permitted to have warrantless access to at all times.

Cho agreed to these terms, plus a $2,000 fine. As Sarah Ryley notes in the Daily News:

If anyone is even accused of breaking the law at his business again — whether a store employee or not — he faces escalating penalties: closures that would increase from 30 days to 60 days to 90 days to a full year with each alleged offense; fines climbing as high as $15,000.

Perhaps most damaging of all, the terms continue in perpetuity, even if the business changes hands.

"My business is essentially worthless," Cho said. "What did I do to deserve it?"

New York's public advocate, Letitia James, is quoted in the report as describing the NYPD's practice of aggressively and selectively targeting these businesses as "a form of legal harassment and coercion."

646 cases from 2013-2014 were examined in researching the report, and the data may indicate that some officers were deliberately trying to get certain stores closed.

The NYPD's guide instructs officers that three violations are needed to recommend a "closing order" to a judge, but only one alleged sale of alcohol to a minor is sufficient for a nuisance abatement violation. After reading about a particular officer whose modus operandi included waiting until he had evidence of a third violation before making an arrest, an unnamed retired lieutenant told The News "That would mean the purpose of those buys was to get a nuisance abatement."

Juventino Sanchez, the co-owner of one bodega whose cook sold a can of beer to a minor without asking for ID, now fears his store will be shut down soon because they are repeat offenders. But he says he won't pay the fine next time, he'll simply close the store and apply for welfare. 

Sanchez says he works 15 hours a day, but he'll "apply for everything" if he's forced to close his business. "So they gonna pay me now, right? Because it doesn't make sense. I am working."

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  1. If only there was some judge or elected official in the mix to step in and protect small business owners.

  2. Holy crap, what a shithole. And New Yorkers think they know better than the rest of us, and we should following their shining example in all things?

    1. Hey but they have the option of standing in line for four hours to watch Cats!

    2. “Holy crap, what a shithole. And New Yorkers think they know better than the rest of us, and we should following their shining example in all things?”

      REGION WAR!

      1. Shut up! Everyone knows the police are moral upright and selfless public servants outside the city limits of New York City.

        1. Shut up! Everyone knows the police are moral upright and selfless public servants outside the city limits of New York City.

          We call it God’s Country.

          1. Ah, the fabled “corn/maize” line!

            1. Follow the aqueduct up to the reservoirs, and then pee in New York’s drinking water.

            2. Corn mazes are good clean wholesome fun in flyover country.

              Or you’re hoping for a TSBJ meme.

              1. I see one pic, you promised me a meme!

    3. And New Yorkers think they know better than the rest of us, and we should following their shining example in all things?

      Yeah, unlike everywhere else in the world, New Yorkers never complain about or criticize their government.

      1. Its true. They complain constantly about their government. Mostly, I gather, that its just too small, and too obstructed by Rethuglicans.

        1. Except for all of the ones who vote for Republicans.

        2. They complain so much, there’s a Public Advocate to take their side. Amazing, ain’t it? There has to be an official as an antidote to the other officials?

  3. Hey if it works for Oklahoma highwaymen, why not do it in New York City? It’s the equivalent of pulling over a store for a broken tail light, and then emptying the cash register.

  4. The mob is at least honest enough to drag you out back and break your legs.

    1. They set small businesses on fire and let you keep some of the insurance money.

      Police would consider that ill-got gains, and take the remainder.

  5. I will say it’s funny watching left-wingers like the people at The New York Daily News complaining about people getting their businesses shutdown for non-compliance with regulations given that they probably supported most of these laws when they were first implemented.

    “For example, an undercover officer will wander the aisles of a store offering to sell a stolen iPad to a customer browsing for kitty litter or waiting in line for a sandwich. If that officer makes a sale, the nuisance abatement action is filed against the store’s owner.”

    And this is not entrapment because

    1. And this is not entrapment because

      Yes it is. Next question?

    2. Because FYTW.

    3. Because “entrapment” is a rather straightforward proposition. Making a store owner responsible for crimes undercover cops commit on his property without his knowledge is a whole different convoluted depth of foul.

    4. So if two guys walk into a police station and one buys a cigarette from the other, the police stations has to close, right?

      RIGHT?

    5. I will say it’s funny watching left-wingers like the people at The New York Daily News complaining about people getting their businesses shutdown for non-compliance with regulations given that they probably supported most of these laws when they were first implemented.

      They didn’t intend for any businesses to get shut down. They just wanted the businesses to quietly do as they were told. Laws are supposed to be magic. They aren’t supposed to require actual enforcement with penalties, fines, and violence. That’s why left-wingers will support most any law, but be the first ones to cry about police brutality. They simply don’t understand that every piece of legislation is an opportunity for men of violence to get their rocks off. I mean, it’s not their intention. How could it possibly be their fault?

  6. the bad old days of 1970s-1980s New York, when open prostitution and drug dealing were Times Square’s most identifiable traits

    That sounds like an improvement over today, to me.

    1. Would you also like the 10x higher crime rate that came with it?

      1. Just legalize the drugs and prostitution, crime rate goes into dead fall.

        1. Oh, and they could also legalize someone owning and operating a business without being constantly harassed and shaken down by state backed thugs.

        2. You mean when people can take disputes to court without being charged for a crime for the activity that led to the dispute, then they don’t resort to settling disputes with violence and other criminal activity? I’m shocked! Shocked I tell you!

      2. Would you also like the 10x higher crime rate that came with it?

        If we get Soul Train back, then yes.

        1. Wasn’t Soul Train done out of Chicago?

    2. sounds like a libertarian moment

  7. But the do everything bigger in NYC. At least the Okies don’t force their victims to become ongoing uncompensated* informers, forever.

    *Unless being allowed to walk free and operate a business is considered “compensation”.

    1. It is.

  8. So if an undercover cop sells stolen goods to another undercover cop, that counts as two strikes, right.

    1. AFAICT, it’s goods they just say are stolen.

      If, however, you try to stop the cops from undertaking such a sale, remember the story of the security guard who was killed by undercover NYPD when he refused to sell them narcotics.

      1. Damned if you do, dead if you don’t. What’s not to love?

  9. “My business is essentially worthless,” Cho said. “What did I do to deserve it?”

    Ok, I have to splain this to you, Chinaman. For starters you think you can just walk right in here and start another of your diry Asian businesses. Your duty as a new immigrant is to get on the welfare and vote for Democrats. Now get in line!

  10. So, when restroom (mis)allocation falls under these nuisance abatement laws, won’t NYC, effectively be policing restrooms?

    1. I’m sure they are already. Got to watch out for those “wide stance” people.

  11. But he says he won’t pay the fine next time, he’ll simply close the store and apply for welfare.

    Feature, not bug.

    1. He forgot ‘and vote for Democrats’.

    2. Hard-working Republican converted to Democrat.

      1. Republicans never collect welfare?

        1. They must not be True Republicans, sure, that’s the ticket.

        2. A Democrat is a Republican who has never been mugged.

          A Republican is a Democrat who has never received a welfare check.

    3. Seriously, though, once he applies he’ll find out he can’t get enough to live on welfare unless he cheats. Which is what they count on.

  12. Maybe that’s what Cruz means when he talks about “New York values.”

    1. Damn, you beat me to it.

  13. These neighborhoods aren’t going to gentrify themselves.

  14. The NYPD had supported a 2007 amendment that would have added murders and felony assaults to the list of offenses that could lead to an action. But after opposition from the nightlife industry, the amendment failed. So the police say they turn to buy-and-busts to close these places.

  15. “So they gonna pay me now, right? Because it doesn’t make sense. I am working.”

    *sigh*

    Sanchez, don’t you know how this works? You working right now means you are somewhat independent. After all, you *earned* your money, you provide a service to your fellows, you have some self-esteem. Once your store is closed and you’re on welfare, they *own* your ass. And you’ll do whatever you’re told to do in order to keep those checks coming in.

    1. So what? Whatever biz you’re in, whether an employee or owner, someone’s your boss. It’s either your customers or your employer. What difference does it make if “they” own you?

      1. Your customer or employer can’t empty your bank account, confiscate everything you own, and throw you in jail. Or just cut to the chase and shoot you.

        1. this this this this this this this. I try not to talk politics with people in real life cuz it never doesn’t turn into a fight, and I think I forget that most people dont consider laws as being inherently violent.

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  17. Well, aren’t you glad that the good people is San Francisco employ a much higher class of police officer?

    KRON4.com: ‘Wild animals’: Racist texts sent by San Francisco police officer … http://kron4.com/2016/04/26/wi…..ents-show/

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