Criminal justice reform has driven down the number of people arrested in New York on misdemeanor charges over the last several years, but racial disparities in who is getting arrested remains stubbornly in place, according to a new report.
Misdemeanor arrests have dramatically declined across New York since 2010, according to a report released by the Misdemeanor Justice Project at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Wednesday.
That year, misdemeanor arrests in New York City peaked at 4,351 arrests per 100,000 people. For several cities upstate, that rate peaked in 1996 at 4,892 arrests per 100,000 people. Since then, police departments across the country have eased up on misdemeanor enforcement while crime rates have fallen.
In 2017, there were fewer than 2,700 arrests per 100,000 people in New York City and in cities upstate, according to the report.
But disparities in the numbers remain for minorities. The arrest rate in New York City for non-Hispanic black people was 5,571 arrests per 100,000 people last year, down from 9,517 in 2010.
“New York has engaged in significant criminal justice reform and this recent report demonstrates that progress is starting to be made,” said Karol Mason, president of John Jay, in a news release. “But there is still work to be done.”
Among the factors that have driven down arrest rates in in the state is the New York City Police Department’s declining use of its controversial “stop and frisk” practice, which was disproportionately used on non-white residents.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York ruled in a class action suit that the department was using stop and frisk in an unconstitutional manner and ordered the department to develop a written policy for the practice.
Aside from racial disparities apparent in the data, the report from John Jay shows that New York has “entered a new era of police-community relations,” said Jeremy Travis, executive vice president of criminal justice for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which provided funding for the study. And the numbers show that police can deprioritize certain offenses without causing crime rates to spike.
Anthony Posada, supervising attorney of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal justice unit, said John Jay’s report shows that police can safely dispense with broken windows policing without jeopardizing New Yorkers’ safety, but said there is still room for improvement in terms of the lingering racial disparity in enforcement.
“The fact that these racial disparities have widened during this trend in ‘progressive’ New York City pose a harm to all of us because they undermine belief in the legitimacy of law enforcement,” Posada said. “Clearly, the NYPD has its work cut out to address this overtly biased policing.”