A vital debate is taking place in New York City right now. According to Seth Barron of City Journal, the City Council is considering the decriminalization of minor crimes:

Who Needs Quality of Life, Anyway?

Last week, the New York City Council announced that it was preparing legislation to reduce the penalties for a host of “minor crimes.” Open urination, drinking alcohol in public, riding bikes on the sidewalk, and other public-order infractions like subway fare-beating would no longer be considered criminal violations but rather civil offenses, akin to parking near a crosswalk. Instead of receiving a summons to appear in court, violators could pay a fine through the mail.

Proponents offer a simple explanation for why the changes are necessary: the negative effect that interaction with the criminal justice system has on those who receive summonses. Council Member Jumaane Williams has separately bemoaned the arrest of people for “minor infractions” in the subway on the grounds that “an arrest can cause significant stress” for the arrestee, as well as imposing “financial hardship.”

The public urination proposal is turning into something of a pissing contest among politicians:

Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, two of the top elected officials in New York City, agreed today that public urination should remain a criminal offense–breaking with their fellow Democrat, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Ms. Mark-Viverito proposed on Monday that the city should decriminalize minor offenses like urinating outdoors, drinking in public and turnstile hopping. While Police Commissioner Bill Bratton initially criticized the proposal, he is reportedly in talks with the speaker to decriminalize, among other offenses, drinking in public–but not urination.

“We lived in a city not that long ago where the smell of urine was so prevalent in some of our economically challenged communities, people felt they were afraid to go out at night and I just think we should enforce the law fairly but keep in mind we have to have some laws,” Mr. Stringer told reporters outside City Hall. “I think we should proceed with caution. I am very proud of our low crime rate.”

Barron has written before about the city council before, calling them far left:

Council of Crackpots

De Blasio’s victory has quickly given him a national profile as one of liberalism’s standard-bearers, and he appears to have broader ambitions. Realizing any such aspirations will depend, of course, on how he performs as mayor, but de Blasio came into office with an advantage that his recent predecessors lacked: overwhelming support in the city council, whose members, as one lawmaker put it, are like a “cult of true believers,” eager to follow their leader.

Mayor de Blasio may be a progressive, but he doesn’t agree on the issue of transit fare.

Matthew Chayes of Newsday:

Mayor Bill de Blasio not willing to decriminalize transit-fare evasion

Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose aides are negotiating with the City Council over its proposal to decriminalize some petty crimes, suggested Wednesday that he is unwilling to budge on transit-fare evasion.

At an impromptu news conference at the City Hall gates, Bill de Blasio said that arresting people for turnstile jumping is the centerpiece of “broken-windows” policing — the focus on small crimes to prevent larger ones — which he and his NYPD commissioner say is essential for crime control.

“I’ve made the point that fare evasion should not be looked at too lightly,” de Blasio said. “We have often found in the case of fare evasion that the individuals who attempt fare evasion have outstanding warrants or have weapons on them.”

Maybe this is also one of the reasons de Blasio objects:

MTA fares, tolls can go up 15 percent if agency isn’t bailed out

Straphangers, start saving now.

Millions of commuters could soon get hit with a 15% fare and toll hike if the state Legislature doesn’t bail out the debt-ridden agency, a top transit official warned Monday.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $32 billion, five-year capital budget plan to pay for serious fixes and updates is only half-funded.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.


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