Wary Of Police-Community Relations, City Council Says Idea Deserves Consideration

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is behind a controversial proposal to grant amnesty to more than 1 million people with open warrants for low-level offenses.

But some experts worry it could cause crime to skyrocket.

First he called for reduced penalties for smoking marijuana. Now, Bratton wants to explore granting amnesty to 1.2 million city residents with open warrants for low-level offenses, people who run the risk of being arrested for failing to resolve tickets for drinking in public, disorderly conduct and the like, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Monday.

There is one statistic that shows the magnitude of the problem. Last year, of the hundreds of thousands of tickets that were given out for low-level offenses, fully 40 percent of the people either skipped the proceedings or didn’t show up, Kramer reported.

Several members of the City Council, concerned with police-community relations, said amnesty is an idea that should be looked at seriously. Council Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson said she favors doing something to eliminate a backlog that includes some summonses a decade old.

“I think it would be a very delicate conversation where we want to find the right balance,” said Gibson, D-Bronx. “We also want all New Yorkers to respect the laws we have on the books because laws are meant to be implemented. They’re meant to be enforced.”

Experts like former police officer Jon Shane said it’s a bad idea that could lead to a spike in crime.

“You always have to be answerable for your behavior and unchecked behavior, we know, leads to larger things and those things manifest themselves in violent crime and property crime, like auto theft and burglary, and things like that,” said Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“I absolutely think they have to go through the justice system before we just boot people out and get rid of them for space,” Upper West Side resident Elizabeth Miller added.

“I think it’s a pretty good idea as long as it’s not a felon,” Upper West Side resident Nick Damacco added.

“They did a crime, right? So they should be punished,” added Louis Brown of Brownsville, Brooklyn.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito wants reduced penalties for some quality-of-life crimes, and said the commissioner’s proposal should be looked at as part of the entire debate, Kramer reported.

Bratton has said in published reports said he doesn’t know whether the idea will turn out to be feasible. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said a lot of things have to be examined and certain offenses, like drug crimes, probably should not be forgiven.