NEW YORK — The New York Times reported Sunday that NYPD officers arrest Black people at 8 times the rate of Caucasian people. The New York times analyzed arrests going back three years and found that people of color are arrested at a disproportionate rate compared to Caucasians even though they consume marijuana at roughly the same rate.
Across New York, Hispanic people were arrested at 5 times the rate of Caucasians in the city. The newspaper also found that Black people in Manhattan are arrested at an even higher disparity of 15 times the rate of White people.
The NYPD claims that the majority of the 911 complaints about marijuana come from communities of color, but The New York Times found that not to be the case, finding that police still arrested people in Black neighborhoods at a higher rate than others.
The analysis also showed many of the arrests were due to the NYPD's practices and not because of neighbors who called the police to complain about people smoking marijuana. For example, police arrested people in the predominantly Black Brooklyn neighborhood Canarsie at 4 times the rate as they did in Greenpoint, which is predominately White.
Considerations were given for poverty, violence, race, and homeownership in each city borough for the analysis and the statistics only include low-level marijuana possession crimes.
Black and Brown Neighborhoods are Targeted by Police
Harry G. Levine is a sociology professor at Queens College and says that 87 percent of people arrested for marijuana were Black or Hispanic, adding that the disparity has been happening for decades.
The Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn had twice as many people arrested for marijuana in 2017 than the previous year even though there were an equal number of marijuana complaints for both years.
On the Upper West Side where Caucasians make up almost 70 percent of the population, 7o percent of marijuana arrests were of Black and Hispanic people over the last 3 years. The same is true of the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn where three-quarters of marijuana arrests in the predominately Caucasian neighborhood were Black or Hispanic.
The Queens neighborhood Queens Village, which is more than 50 percent Black, has 10 times as many marijuana arrests as the Queens neighborhood Forest Hills, which is mostly White. Harlem, mostly Black, also has twice the arrest rate as the Upper West Side, mostly White.
Candidate for the New York Democratic gubernatorial nomination Cynthia Nixon said back in April that weed is basically legal for White people only and that if she is elected, she will legalize marijuana in the state as well as expunge marijuana arrest records.
Councilmembers from the New York City Council Justice Committee were angered by the data revealed in the article and expressed their frustrations Monday. City Councilman Corey Johnson said that the arrests are ruining lives and are being enforced unfairly, and Councilman Rory Lancman requested that city prosecutors use their authority to make up for racial disparities by refusing to prosecute any marijuana possession cases.
Mayor de Blasio responded to the article and the demands from the Justice Committee on Tuesday while giving a speech in Washington, D.C., according to The Hill. De Blasio said that the NYPD would be overhauling and reforming its policies regarding how police enforce the state's marijuana laws in the next 30 days, adding that the inequalities must come to an end.
The New York mayor did not specify what changes the NYPD would be making in his announcement. De Blasio attempted to decriminalize marijuana in the city back in 2014 and marijuana arrests did decrease overall but increased in communities of color. Lancman said that the NYPD is unwilling to change their practices of targeting Black and Brown people.