On Staten Island's North Shore, You Get Stopped, You Get Frisked, You Get Arrested, You Get Processed
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2014

NPR produced a segment last week on community reaction to policing on Staten Island's North Shore, Christopher Pisciotta, Attorney-in-Charge of the Society's Criminal Practice Office in Staten Island, said that the broken windows approach focusing on low-level offenses to prevent bigger ones has created resentment.

Pisciotta told NPR, "You have to ask yourself, 'Why are more people being arrested and stopped by the police on the North Shore, under the 120 precinct? Why isn’t there this great level of policing that occurs across the island, across the communities, across income levels? Maybe you would get a ticket if you were somewhere else, but in this community you get stopped, you get frisked, you get arrested, you get processed."




Morning Edition
WNYC (NPR) New York
August 8th, 2014 7-8AM

Richard Hake, Host: The death of Eric Garner is placing a spotlight on Staten Island’s North Shore, home to the borough’s black community. Garner was put in a choke hold as police arrested him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. WNYC’s Mirela Iverac spent some time talking to residents about their relationship with the police.

Mirela Iverac, NPR Reporter: You don’t have to walk far on Staten Island’s North Shore to start hearing complaints about the cops that often sound very similar.

Unidentified Woman: They just look at us in a different way. I’m not asking them to be friendly-friendly but I mean, everybody’s not a criminal.

Unidentified Man 1: They look at everybody like everybody’s selling drugs and everything, but a lot of people work.

Unidentified Man 2: Everybody out here’s a criminal. That’s how they think.

Mirela Iverac: Thirty-one-year-old Wayne Thompson works in a furniture store and lives in the Richmond Terrace houses, a public housing development. As a black man in a low-income neighborhood, he says he feels tension every day.

Wayne Thompson, Resident: Even if regular just walking, that’s it, ‘Hey! What are you doing?’ ‘Hey, I live out here.’ Anytime, that can happen. You’d be coming out from work and I guarantee it doesn’t happen over there.

Mirela Iverac: Over there, meaning the rest of the island where the largest part of the white population lives. That’s what makes Staten Island different from the rest of the city. It’s still predominantly white and with a high percentage of home owners, it has a suburban feel. Black Staten Islanders and other minorities are largely concentrated in neighborhoods around the St. George Ferry terminal and along the North Shore. The area is covered by the hundred-and-twentieth precinct where Eric Garner died. Here in recent years the police have issued more than twice as many low-level summonses per capita and made more than twice as many stop and frisks per capita as anywhere else on the island. That’s according to a WNYC analysis of data provided by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Christopher Pisciotta, Legal Aid Attorney: You have to ask yourself, 'Why are more people being arrested and stopped by the police on the North Shore, under the 120 precinct? Why isn’t there this great level of policing that occurs across the island, across the communities, across income levels?’”

Mirela Iverac: Christopher Pisciotta is attorney in charge at Legal Aid’s office on Staten Island. He says the broken windows approach focusing on low-level offenses to prevent bigger ones has created resentment.

Christopher Pisciotta: Maybe you would get a ticket if you were somewhere else, but in this community you get stopped, you get frisked, you get arrested, you get processed.

Pat Lynch, President of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association: “It is a person’s behavior that leads to interactions with the police, not who they are, not what they look like, not how much money is in their pocket. It is absolutely insulting to insinuate otherwise.”

Mirela Iverac: And the stats show that on the North Shore it’s not just the number of summonses and stop and frisks that are high, the precinct also has double the rate of major crimes compared to other precincts on the island. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says broken windows policing is not going anywhere because it helps keep the city safe. During a visit to one of the island’s white neighborhoods, Midland Beach, where the city’s Night Out Against Crime this week, he said safe streets help relationships with the entire community.

Bill Bratton, Police Commissioner: “We’re very fortunate that we have great relationships with the community over here on Staten Island and in the city and we’re building on the strengths of those relationships. My precinct captains, my cops do a great job. And the relationships, I’ve found, are just really very, very good.”

Mirela Iverac: Whether those relationships are indeed good is becoming increasingly important for Staten Island. The number of black residents is going up an eighteen percent increase between 2000 and 2010 while it’s going down citywide. Bishop Victor Brown, who has served a mostly black congregation in the New Brighton area for almost thirty years, says the police reach out regularly to meet with community leaders. He says many residents want community policing: cops walking the beat, meeting residents face to face.

Victor Brown, Bishop: “How we interface with people, I think, spells the difference between something potentially going good and something potentially not going good.”

Mirela Iverac: And that, he says, could help prevent future tragedies like the death of Eric Garner. For WNYC, I’m Mirela Iverac.