By Chris Hoenig
The NYPD may have lost the Stop and Frisk battle, but it’s found another way to continue with racist policies and policing.
It’s called Broken Windows policing: aggressive enforcement of low-level quality-of-life offenses, such as drinking on your front porch stoop. But once again, it’s Blacks and Latinos who are disproportionately arrested or ticketed.
“In terms of quality-of-life types of offenses, those are in fact actual criminal acts witnessed by a police officer or violations of city ordinances—traffic offenses, littering—all these things are in fact against the law,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said on WNYC last month. “If people would obey the law, then they would not draw the attention of the police.”
Bratton tried to pass off the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos who receive summonses on a stronger police presence in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, where the population is largely Black and Latino.
“Very oftentimes our enforcement activities in the communities, based on a study that we have out there at the moment about quality-of-life enforcement, are based on 311 and 911 calls, service requests, complaints that we receive,” he said at a city council hearing on Monday, referring to the communities as “the most problematic areas of the city.”
But the New York Daily News accessed and reviewed nearly 2 million “broken windows” summonses that paint a very different picture: It doesn’t matter where in the city it’s taking place, Blacks and Latinos are being targeted once again.
Some areas with large disparities are indeed largely Black and Latino. In the Mill Basin and Flatlands neighborhoods that make up the NYPD’s 63rd Precinct, Blacks and Latinos make up 52 percent of the population and 81 percent of summonses—a 28-percentage point difference. The disparity is the same in the 88th Precinct’s Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods, where the population is 60 percent Black and Latino, as are those who receive 87 percent of the summonses.
But why do Blacks and Latinos make up just as large a share of summonses in neighborhoods that are predominantly white? In the 20th Precinct’s tony Upper West Side, where 87 percent of the population is white, Blacks and Latinos receive 60 percent of the summonses, a 47-percentage point disparity. In its neighboring precinct to the north, the 24th Precinct, Blacks and Latinos receive 84 percent of the summonses, despite making up only 34 percent of the population. And across the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, in the Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Boerum Hill neighborhoods, 84th Precinct officers issue 78 percent of their summonses to Blacks and Latinos, who represent just 28 percent of the population.
The last two represent racial disparities of a full 50 percentage points.
Another 17 precincts—20 total—have disparities of at least 30 percentage points. Only one is a neighborhood that is home to a 50-plus percent Black and Latino population. (Officers in the 70th Precinct’s Flatbush and Ditmas Park neighborhoods, which are 52 percent Black and Latino, issue 84 percent of summonses to Blacks and Latinos.)
In every neighborhood where the disparity was six percentage points or smaller, Blacks and Latinos represent at least 87 percent of the population, but never fewer than 87 percent of the summonses.
“The traditional law-enforcement excuse is that Black and Latino neighborhoods suffer from disproportionately higher shares of crime, and that’s why Broken Windows is disproportionately enforced. These numbers reveal that the Broken Windows strategy targets Blacks and Latinos all throughout the City of New York, even in neighborhoods of relatively low crime,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn).
Is Broken Windows the New Stop and Frisk?
U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin called the Stop and Frisk program “indirect racial profiling” in ruling it unconstitutional last year. Mountains of data showed the disparity in the number of Blacks and Latinos stopped and searched—with the only justification being that they looked a certain way or wore certain clothing.
A Queens College study last year also found that the NYPD spent approximately $440 million targeting Black and Latino teens for marijuana-possession arrests. In the sweep, 85 percent of those arrested were Black or Latino, even though research has shown that the majority of marijuana users are white.