New York City courts have been quiet in the two and a half weeks since the NYPD essentially stopped arresting people. The New York Times reports that arraignments have dropped 60 and 91 percent for misdemeanor offenses and low-level violations like disorderly conduct over the past two and a half weeks compared with the same period last year. Overall, arraignments in December were down 34 percent compared to last year.
"It's slow, crazy slow," a public defender from Legal Aid told the Times Tuesday night at a Manhattan court, where just 30 defendants were arranged instead of the usual 60 to 90. Another Legal Aid worker told the paper that there's "been a big difference" since the NYPD began its so-called "work stoppage" in late December.
Other boroughs have also seen a slowdown in new cases. From the Times:
Brooklyn Criminal Court is usually so busy that although each arraignment lasts only a few minutes, two courtrooms are occupied day and night, one for felonies and one for misdemeanors.
Now, just one courtroom handles all the traffic. That led to a strange mix of cases on Tuesday. Offenders, whether they were accused of felonies or whether they were given desk-appearance tickets weeks ago, passed through a single courtroom. Tuesday's cases included an armed robbery, shoplifters and traffic offenders.
The Brooklyn Defender Services shared information about the drop in new cases. The week before Officers Liu and Ramos's deaths, there were 838 arraignments in Brooklyn's Kings County Criminal Court; in the week following the shooting, that number dropped to just 265. And a public defender I spoke to from another borough said arraignments had dropped significantly since mid-December, from an average of 150 to 250 per day to just 25 to 75.
The drop in arraignments shouldn't come as a surprise. In the two weeks on record since Ramos and Liu were killed, arrests overall have been down 66% and 56% compared to the same period last year. The drop has been even higher for minor offenses. From the Times:
The numbers, disclosed on Monday, reveal a downturn in nearly every category of arrest — including gun possession and drunken driving — and all three categories of summons activity, parking violations, (down 93 percent to 1,191 from 16,008); traffic infractions (down 92 percent, to 749 from 9,349); and low-level crimes (down 91 percent).
Public defenders, noting that felonies didn't rise over the same period, seem to hope the slowdown becomes permanent. "This proves to us is what we all knew as defenders: You can end broken-windows policing without ending public safety," Justine M. Luongo, the deputy attorney-in-charge of criminal practice for the Legal Aid Society, told the Times. The defender I spoke with echoed Luongo's hopes, and said "This is exactly what should be happening."
"As a public defender, we're constantly overbooked," another attorney told the Times. "So I can't really complain about being less busy than usual."
[Image via AP]