If you were marching in the streets of New York City over the past year or so, calling for change and blaming the police department for most of what’s wrong with society, you may be close to getting something checked off your wish list. While it’s not near the point of final approval yet, Big Apple PD commissioner Bill Bratton hinted this week at a plan which is receiving serious consideration. Rather than bothering with rounding up (or even picking up on a random stop) all of the hundreds of thousands of people with outstanding bench warrants for “low level crimes” out there, maybe we’ll just wave a magic wand and give them all a clean slate.
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.
Pardon an observation from the peanut gallery, but if there are already “hundreds of thousands” of people being given citations to appear in court and failing to show up, it’s probably because they know that the courts are swamped and there aren’t enough resources to track down every single person each day. With that in mind, if they manage to keep themselves from getting pulled over in a traffic stop or being detained for doing something else both stupid and illegal out on the streets, they just might get away with it.
Let’s think about that line of reasoning for a moment. People who are already engaged in some degree of “low level” crime which has resulted in a bench warrant may well be inclined to take part in more of the same or even bigger transgressions. But if they know there’s already a bench warrant out… they may modify their behavior a bit and not do things which would interest the police. Isn’t it interesting how that works?
Now let’s move to the other scenario. When you have a bench warrant on someone and find them either driving erratically or engaged in mischief out on the streets, most of those cases will be small change. But some number of people who are willing to break the law in small ways will go for bigger prizes. How many times have the cops flagged someone with an outstanding warrant for petty crime and found that they are packing weapons, significant quantities of hard drugs or who knows what other contraband from bigger crimes? Perhaps we should just wipe out that entire avenue of pursuit.
And finally, for some criminals (and wannabe criminals) the only thing stopping them from being more active is the fear of punishment from the court system. As noted in the introduction, we already have more than a million people thumbing their nose at the law. Once word gets out that City Hall is handing out free passes, please don’t come back out in a press conference a year from now looking shocked and dismayed when the crime rate rockets back up to levels we haven’t seen in decades. And don’t expect the law abiding tax payers and business owners to be overly thrilled with all of you at election time either.
So is it going to happen or not?
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.
Sounds like it’s nearly a done deal to me. Buckle up, Big Apple. The ride may be getting significantly more bumpy.