Year after year, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of arrests for marijuana possession occur in neighborhoods with large black and Latino populations. At a recent City Council hearing, NYPD officials attributed this phenomenon to high numbers of complaints about marijuana use in these areas. In a story published today, Politico crunched the numbers, finding that the NYPD’s argument doesn’t hold up.
The analysis found that 86% of those arrested for marijuana possession in the fifth degree during 2017 were people of color. And the data shows there isn’t necessarily a link between complaints and arrests. Let’s take a look at the picture on the Lower East Side.
In the 7th Precinct, there were 304 arrests in 2017 and 200 complaints to 911 and 311. The white population in the 7th is 24%; Hispanics make up 32% and Asians 34%. By comparison, the East Village (9th Precinct) saw only 174 arrests but there were more complaints (237). The white population is 52% in the 9th Precinct, 24% Hispanic and 14% Asian. You can have a look at the interactive map for yourself here.
Marijuana possession arrests have dropped overall about 40% in the de Blasio era. But during last month’s hearing, Councilmember Donovan Richards, chair of the public safety committee, said, “The racial disparities have not changed one bit, and arrests are still too common in communities of color… If the administration is serious about changing this disparity, we’re not seeing it.”