Criminal summonses and arrests for behavior like public urination, littering and drinking in public have dropped by 90 percent since New York City’s Democratic-controlled government largely decriminalized the petty offenses earlier this year, according to City Hall.
Between June 13 and October 1 — the first 16 weeks of a new law mandating that cops issue civil tickets instead of criminal enforcement in most cases — there were 4,370 criminal court summonses, down from 55,224 for the same period a year earlier, a summary from the mayor’s and City Council speaker’s office says.
There were 26,154 civil tickets alleging behavior that would have meant criminal court in the past, the summary says.
Police can still charge and arrest the offender, but only for recidivists, those with warrants and others — and then only with a supervisor’s permission.
The civil tickets carry only monetary fines and can often be resolved with community service. The tickets are addressed at tribunals of the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, which has satellite offices in the boroughs. Absent a sudden, unusual drop in public drinking, urinating and other petty offenses, the data suggests many NYPD officers may have opted not to issue any form of citation.
The law, the Criminal Justice Reform Act, passed last year by the council, was intended to mitigate the lifelong stigma of a criminal record, with its collateral impact on getting a job and finding housing, by bypassing the criminal court system entirely. Backers of the act also wanted to eliminate the prospect of unanswered summonses leading to arrest warrants.
Foes of the move said the act would return the city to the gloom and lawlessness of the 1970s and 1980s, although major crime has remained at record lows.
“This historic decrease in criminal summonses is proof that meaningful criminal justice reform is possible without any cost to public safety or order,” said council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan).