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Mayor Bill de Blasio passes reforms to reduce arrests for low-level crimes

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a series of

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a series of reforms to reduce arrests for low-level offenses, such as public urination or littering. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Monday a series of reforms aimed at reducing arrests for low-level offenses, such as public urination or littering, just weeks after the package was passed by the City Council.

The eight bills, which together make up the Criminal Justice Reform Act, will defer many of these nonviolent offenses to an administrative court, rather than having them wind up in criminal court.

The law also established a civil penalty scale — the fine for several unreasonable noise violations, for example, will range from $75 to $150 for a first offense and go up to $150 to $250 for a second offense within two years.

“We need to continue to drive down crime while reducing arrests and incarceration,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said before signing the bills at City Hall. “For too long one small wrongdoing has come at a huge cost for so many individual New Yorkers.”

Under the new law, police will still have the option to make an arrest or issue a criminal summons. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton called the bills — which were a compromise between the Council, de Blasio’s office, and the NYPD — a “win-win” for everyone involved.

Bratton said that officers needed to have the ability to “when necessary, be able to take a more assertive action,” but added that doesn’t mean that every interaction will result in an arrest.

“This is good government at work,” Bratton said.

The law will also require the NYPD to publicly report on both criminal and civil summonses, as well as desk appearance tickets, broken down by the type of offense, and the race, age, and gender of the offender.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the bills are an indication of New York City “living up to its highest values.” Mark-Viverito said the bills are expected to divert more than 100,000 cases from the criminal justice system each year.

“It will keep our city safe while bringing more justice to a criminal justice system that needed it for far too long,” she said. “I hope that what we are accomplishing here today will galvanize other cities to look at their own systems, the faces in their own jails, and think about what they can do differently.”


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