FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT www.queenscourier.com FEBRUARY 5, 2015 • THE QUEENS COURIER 27 SNAPS QUEENS “Everything. I like 100 degrees and hotter.” Laura Brickerton BY ROSS BELSKY “Forgetting my hat and gloves when I go sledding.” Matthew Harrington “Having to wear longjohns.” Chris Warchild “When work gets canceled. I need to get paid.” Dick Bass “I don’t like piled up, dirty snow that gives me wet shoes.” Rosa Tejeda “The commute when it snows. Especially when the forecast is wrong and the subways and roads are closed anyway.” Tahmid Kamal oped street talk “The ice everywhere after it snows.” Brian Conner “It gets dark early. When I think about the warm people in Florida I get annoyed. Also parking in the snow, and walking my dog.” Breda Paccione Rey chilling in the snow. Photo courtesy of Gabi Spyridon Send us your photos of Queens and you could see them online or in our paper! Submit them to us via our Facebook page, tweeting @queenscourier or by emailing email@example.com. What do you hate most about winter? Decriminalize some ‘broken windows’ offenses BY RORY LANCMAN Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s hero, Sir Robert Peel, who founded London’s police force, enumerated nine fundamentals of policing that Bratton says he carries with him everywhere, the fi rst being: “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.” But the disorder occasioned by relatively minor breaches of the social contract is not “policed” only by the police and the criminal justice system. In New York City, about a dozen agencies already issue tickets for various breaches of the peace and good order which are adjudicated within the civil administrative justice system, including the departments overseeing buildings, sanitation, parks, health, environmental protection and transportation. Alleged violations are heard by a civil administrative tribunal that has the power to issue fi nes and, where relevant, order corrective action. No cops. No arrests. No bench warrants. No potentially lifedamaging “guilty” pleas. Justice, but not criminal justice. Nonetheless, in 2013, some 458,000 New Yorkers were summoned to criminal court, on pain of a bench warrant being issued for their arrest for failure to appear, over quality-of-life violations. Most of these were not even misdemeanors, and thus technically not even crimes under New York law. They ranged from displaying an open container of alcohol to urinating in public to riding one’s bike on the sidewalk. Pleading guilty and agreeing to pay a seemingly trivial fi ne — usually between $25 and $100 — can have serious collateral consequences on one’s employment, education, housing and public benefi ts opportunities, and on one’s immigration status. Is this worth the constant, churning friction that policing these offenses engenders between cops and citizens? The distraction of our police from preventing serious crime and pursuing real criminals? The cost of maintaining criminal summons courts that handle about as many cases as are heard in the more serious misdemeanor and felony courts combined? The cops I speak with have as little enthusiasm for policing these low-level, high-friction offenses as they did in annually detaining hundreds of thousands of completely innocent men of color under the prior city administration’s now-discredited stop-question-frisk program. One way to help cops and citizens alike is to at least lower the temperature of these encounters, and spread the enforcement burden beyond just cops on the beat, by moving many of these lower-level offenses from the criminal to the civil justice system. Without removing cops’ ability to address violations that they see, give other city agencies a greater share of enforcement responsibility, and give civil administrative bodies the primary responsibility for adjudicating them. Dial down the temperature of police enforcement by converting potentially arrestable offenses into the banal equivalent of a parking ticket. Stop driving our cops ever harder and harder for ever more marginal gains in real public safety. Our cops are beleaguered by the burden of policing hundreds of thousands of minor offenses a year; often unable — as human beings — to turn off, when confronting minor offenses, the aggressive instincts that preserve their lives when confronting serious crimes. I see them facing resentment from the citizens they risk their lives to protect and pressure from commanders to “make their numbers.” Likewise, the many New Yorkers who, as Bratton put it, “support us but want us to be better” should not be seen as people who oppose public order. The question isn’t whether preserving public order is important, both for its own sake and as a prophylactic against more serious crime — it is! — but whether its preservation at the low end should fall primarily to cops and criminal courts. Bratton acknowledged in a recent defense of broken-windows policing that “many of the challenges to public order confronting cities and communities cannot be solved by simple police action.” Amen. Let’s start by more sensibly sharing the burden of enforcement of minor violations beyond just our cops. They have real criminals to catch. Lancman is a member of the City Council representing Fresh Meadows, Kew Gardens Hills and other parts of Queens. This column originally appeared in the New York Daily News.
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