In what the Times describes as a "significant blow" to the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy in the Bronx, the borough's DA is refusing to prosecute anyone who is arrested for trespassing in public housing projects unless the arresting officer first submits to an interview. The effect of the new policy, which was instituted in July, is profound: trespass arrests in the Bronx have dropped by 38.2% compared to 2011. In August alone, second and third degree misdemeanor trespass cases dipped by almost 25%.
“This is exactly what prosecutors should be doing before proceeding with criminal prosecutions," Steven Banks, the chief lawyer for the Legal Aid Society said. "Making sure that formulaic statements by police officers actually have some basis to support the arrest and prosecution."
Jeannette Rucker, a bureau chief in the Bronx DA's office, wrote to the NYPD that the police was put into place in the "hopes of eliminating tenants and invited guests from being prosecuted unlawfully." Rucker wrote that many of those who were arrested for trespassing in public housing projects, as well as housing that landlords gave the NYPD permission to patrol under the controversial Clean Halls program, were not trespassing at all. Some were even identified as "legitimate tenants or invited guests."
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to Rucker's letter, claiming "she overstated her deception of discrepancies regarding criminal trespass arrests in the Bronx," but added that the department will address the issue at training.
The Bronx DA's office was last in the news in August, when it was reported that DA Robert Johnson declines to prosecute unless the victim of a crime is interviewed in 24 hours or less.