NY1 was the first to report that in two weeks more than half a million warrants for low level offenses will be dismissed across the city. But, now the Staten Island District Attorney says his office won't participate in the program. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger tells us the other DAs are being applauded.
It's a major reform of the NYPD's aggressive enforcement policies over the last 25 years. Next month four of the city's district attorneys, with the support of the de Blasio administration, will move to toss out a whopping 750,000 arrest warrants for minor offenses.
"It's about time the city does something to mitigate the harm that has been perpetrated on communities of color," said New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman.
Warrants that are at least ten years old will be vacated.
They were issued when people did not appear in court or answer summonses for minor infractions like urinating or drinking alcohol in public, even riding a bicycle on the sidewalk.
Those defendants, most of them black and Hispanic, faced the threat of arrest if cops stopped them, and ran their names through a database.
"The hundreds of thousands of open warrants for minor offenses are the legacy of decades of broken windows policing," Lieberman said.
Under that broken windows strategy, police cracked down on low-level offenses in the belief that would help deter more serious crime.
But with the encouragement city officials, notably City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the NYPD has retreated from that strategy, while still driving down crime.
The head of the Citizens Crime Commission say the dismissals make sense because anyone still facing an old outstanding warrant likely has not had any contact with police — meaning they have stayed out of trouble.
"Let's move on and focus our resources on those violent criminals," said Richard Aborn, with the commission. "Not on those criminals who ten years ago urinated on the sidewalk and we're now going to drag them into court."
Nowadays, cops are advised not to give criminal summonses for minor offenses, but rather a civil violation or even just a warning.
The second week of August, all of the DAs except Staten Island will ask judges to dismiss the warrants and summonses they were issued for.
The judges are expected to grant the requests, without people having to appear in court.