Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even In New York

This is less about race and more about privilege and location, but race plays into it.
A couple of interesting facts before I pull a quote from the article:
1) New York City has the highest arrest rate for marijuana in the country. No. In the WORLD.
2) The Upper East Side (UES) of Manhattan (my hometown) has a median per capita income of over $90,000. Brownsville, in Brooklyn, has a median income of $25,000.
3) Brownsville is 75% black, 14% Hispanic, and 12% Caucasian. The UES? 88% Caucasian, 8% black and Hispanic combined.
OK, armed with that info, here we go:

Among the biggest but least discussed expansions of government power under Mr. Bloomberg has been the explosive increase in arrests for displaying or burning marijuana.

[...]Nearly nine out of ten people charged with violating the law are black or Latino, although national surveys have shown that whites are the heaviest users of pot. Mr. Bloomberg himself acknowledged in 2001 that he had used it, and enjoyed it.

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan where the mayor lives, an average of 20 people for every 100,000 residents were arrested on the lowest-level misdemeanor pot charge in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

During those same years, the marijuana arrest rate in Brownsville, Brooklyn, was 3,109 for every 100,000 residents.

That means the chances of getting arrested on pot charges in Brownsville — and nothing else — were 150 times greater than on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.


Let that sink in for a minute: You are one and one half times more likely to be arrested in Brownsville, Brooklyn-- just six miles from the UES-- for pot than you are in the UES, despite the fact that pot is generally considered a drug of the privileged according to national surveys.
This alarming statistic stems from the fact that the Bloomberg administration instituted a "Stop And Frisk" policy in the wake of September 11, whereby police are authorized to stop anyone on the street and search them, no probably cause required.
In one eight square block part Brownsville, according to the New York Times, 14,000 people are stopped and frisked each year.
Not coincidentally, there are...14,000 residents. That means on average, you stand a 100% chance of being frisked in that portion of Brownsville each year. Citywide, there are 600,000 stop-and-frisks a year for 9 million people. I'd bet that the UES rate of stop-and-frisks is about 1/150th of Brownsville.
None of this is to suggest that stop-and-frisk is a bad tool. Or a good one. It has demonstrably lowered crime citywide, but like all tools...well, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There has to be a better way than to focus on one neighborhood and produce such an eye-popping statistic for a crime that likely shouldn't be as prevalent there, and totally ignore a neighborhood where the crime exists but hardly anyone notices or cares much.
The UES is where Mayor Mike Bloomberg lives, not just the official Gracie Mansion residence, but his private quarters as well. 
I said this wasn't about race, even though Dwyer's article suggests it is a heavy influence, as the Bloomberg administration seems to lean on white UES kids. I have some personal knowledge about how the precincts in my stomping grounds work.
The cops know. The cops know who the mob bosses are (or were). They know who is untouchable, and how to get to them by picking on the wiseasses (*raises hand*), the troublemakers (*raises hand*), and the accomplices of those who would have privilege to protect them (*puts hand down*). They know, block by block who lives where, how much money dad makes in what business he works in, and how much they can roust the kids. They can tell you where drugs are being sold, where they are being used, and who is using and selling. And they can get them to roll if the crime is serious enough. 
So even in this overwhelmingly white enclave, there is still some stop-and-frisking going on, and it targets the people who don't have political cover. Among that population, I'd bet the ratio to Brownsville is more reasonable, but still skewed heavily ethnically.
Yes. Even in New York City, the melting pot of America, you can still be illegally brown.