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by Peter Moskos

March 5, 2011

NYC Settles in Public Housing Trespassing Cases

From the Times:
New York City has quietly reached settlements with several plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit alleging that the city’s trespassing-enforcement policies in public housing complexes are discriminatory and unlawful, lawyers and others said this week.
The city made its offers in October and December and is in the process of paying a total of slightly more than $170,000, with individual payments ranging from $5,000 to $75,000, said a spokesman for the comptroller’s office.
None of the payments are an admission of wrongdoing.
The NYPD needs to continue to police public housing without actually arresting people for trespassing in the building in which they live. This isn't too much to ask. I like to think the NYPD will rise just fine to this challenge.


MisguidedPotential said...

A lot of people trespass in buildings they don't live in; many creeps with orders of protection against them also trespass in their ex-girlfriend/wife/baby momma's building where they themselves used to live.

I can't even walk down the stairs without running into half a dozen thugs "chillin'" in my building.

Police have never patrolled my area on foot, or entered my building. I don't know if this is morally right, but to me it's safer and easier to just leave them alone and have these people like you (as long as they are just dealing drugs, not being violent/harassing people) and be willing to protect you. If someone snitched then a constant police presence would harm our (minority) community and put people at risk as I'm sure some of the thugs would get more violent/deal more inside where families are.

PCM said...

People here (I don't know where "here" is for you) generally don't argue against police presence in public housing or even trespassing arrests. The problem is when people who are in their own building get arrested for trespassing. Even if they're guilty of something, it's not trespassing.

Do the thugs hanging out in your building live there? I think a lot of (liberal) outsiders have this strange perception that the "bad" people always come from somewhere else. What do you do when the people committing the crimes and dealing drugs live there and are your neighbors? Even tough security to protect against outsiders won't protect projects if the trouble makers live there. That's why you need patrol.

So the idea that things might actually be worse *with* police patrol is worrisome to say the least. For the sake of humanity, I hope it's not true. But who knows? What do you think the answer is? And what city do you live in?

MisguidedPotential said...

I know that people do get arrested for "trespassing" in their own building. I've worked for the NYC Criminal Justice Agency in the past and have seen plenty of most likely bogus arrests and charges. Most of the time "trespassing" meant they don't have an I.D. on them, or they went up onto the roof or something. At my last apartment I was stopped and told I could be arrested next time if I didn't have I.D., even though I told him which unit I lived in and with who, so I can see it happening.

I live in Upper Manhattan. A few of the people that loiter live here, but they let a lot of their friends in as well, clogging the stoop outside, the staircase, and lobbies.

I am just trying to think whether police involvement would be positive in a building where there is only loitering and occasional drug sales made mostly behind closed doors, not violence. I am trying to envision how things would change if there were a rather constant police presence in the building. How would the respectable residents react? How would the thugs react?

I don't know the answer but loitering only really happens once it is dark around 7 P.M. here when everyone is inside with their families. Perhaps if these loiterers had to wake up in the morning for work they wouldn't have the time to be a pest.

PCM said...

I wouldn't say police presence in your building wouldn't be without some risks, but I'd sure like to assume it would be for the better.

The fact that call them "thugs" makes me think they harass people who do live there. But if they don't, and they're not causing trouble, I could see how it's best not to rock the boat. Power abhors a vacuum. And the police wouldn't be there forever.

MisguidedPotential said...

Perhaps "thug" is a harsh word. I suppose by loitering they don't inherently "cause trouble," but it's not exactly something anyone wants happening in their building. Not to mention if someone outside the building had a problem with these people, it could bring their "beef" into our building.

In terms of public housing violations, perhaps if the only "crime" committed is trespassing, they can be warned the first time (which goes on record) and asked to move along.

Being homeless is practically a crime in NYC now; any little violation plus having no i.d. equals a trip to central booking for processing. I hated interviewing stinky people back in the day - is it really worth the time, effort and money to process such a person? I've heard that police are no longer able to bring homeless people to shelters if they don't want to. Is that true?

PCM said...

I don't know for sure but I think that yes, unless it's dangerously cold, the person does have to consent.

I don't have a problem with that... except on the subway. Stinky people (I mean the kind of stank where you can't sit in the the same car) need be removed immediately. Arrested, launched into space, I don't care. Not on the subway.

MisguidedPotential said...

I agree - there is nothing like entering a car and wanting to vomit because a person hasn't showered in ages, has probably poo-poohed themselves, and isn't wearing shoes or socks and has open wounds. To me it's obvious that this type of person is mentally ill (who would willfully let themselves go like that?) and should be committed. Your average bum on the street? Bum on, playa!