Why bother prosecuting looters in NYC?

Why bother prosecuting looters in NYC?
(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

As the denizens of the Big Apple prepare to go to the polls to elect a new mayor, there’s yet another headline making the rounds that might impact their decision. As we have discussed here repeatedly, all during the “summer of love” in 2020, BLM protests spiraled out of control, turning into riots and leading to the looting and destruction of many stores in New York City. This trend continued over the winter and to the present day, though thankfully at somewhat reduced levels. Much of the mayhem was caught on security cameras and even posted to social media as selfies by some of the lower-IQ participants. This led to hundreds of arrests of obviously guilty thieves, arsonists, and other rioters. But to the shock of many business owners and residents, very few of those suspects were actually prosecuted. Charges were dropped in a majority of cases and the ones who did wind up being convicted were often able to plead to lesser charges that carry no jail time, such as trespassing. (NBC News)

In late May and early June 2020, looters smashed storefronts in the Bronx and Manhattan boroughs of New York City.

Many were caught on tape, some with their faces visible. Others even posted their own videos of their actions those nights on social media. Hundreds were arrested.

But a review of NYPD data by the investigative team at WNBC, the NBC owned station in New York, shows that a large percentage of the cases — particularly in the Bronx — were dismissed, and that many convictions were for counts like trespassing that carry no jail time.

This information clearly isn’t sitting well with the business community. Much of the Bronx business district was destroyed last June. Plentiful video footage of the destruction allowed the NYPD to eventually make 118 arrests just from that month alone. But Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark oversaw the dropping of all charges in 73 of those cases. The 19 cases where someone was actually convicted were downgraded to trespassing charges and the looters were let off with a slap on the wrist. Darcel Clark came into office promising to hire a more “diverse” team at the DA’s office, which is great. But only if that team plans on doing its job. The Vice President of the Bronx Business Association is quoted describing the situation as “disgusting.”

There was even more damage, destruction, and theft in the upscale Soho district of Manhattan, often right in front of security guards, as we discussed here previously. There were 485 arrests from the June rioting in Manhattan, but nearly half (222) were dropped without prosecution. They did manage 73 convictions but, again, nearly all were on reduced charges and almost no one went to jail. 128 of the arrests are still considered “open.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance similarly came into office proudly promising to prioritize “the advancement of criminal justice reform.” He was an advocate of emptying the jails and eliminating cash bail, showing up for work just before the entire borough started going up in flames. The numbers above tell the tale of what sort of results he’s produced. So in New York City these days, you can be arrested and convicted for some crimes, but not others if you happen to be viewed as part of a politically favorable class. Here’s an interesting observation on this clear imbalance from Benjamin Weingarten.

On Tuesday, New York City voters will go to the polls for the Democrats’ mayoral primary. That race is basically the general election since a Republican can’t be elected in New York City these days. The polling thus far shows that the candidates promising a return to law and order are outpacing the progressives in the pack. But it’s going to take more than a new mayor to set matters to rights. (Even though Eric Adams, the current poll leader, is a retired police officer and former Republican.) The city needs new management at the top of the NYPD and District Attorneys who are willing to prosecute criminals when the cops do manage to catch some of them. Until a new broom truly sweeps clean, Gotham is going to remain a hell hole.

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