Arrests for smoking marijuana in public have shifted from occurring mostly in rich, central areas of New York City (NYC) in the early 1990's, to occurring mostly in poor, black or Hispanic areas of the city in 2003. A study published today in the open access journal Harm Reduction Journal reveals that arrests for smoking marijuana in public now occur mostly in the black, Hispanic or poor areas of New York City, especially in the Hispanic areas of the Bronx, the black and Hispanic sections of Brooklyn and in Queens.
The authors conclude that these arrests, which increased throughout the 1990's to reach a peak of 51,000 in 2000, do not seem to be primarily serving the goals of 'quality-of-life' policing - which aims to penalise even minor criminal offences in highly public locations - anymore. The tendency to target areas populated by poor or ethnic communities might be exacerbating race relations in NYC, say the authors. The authors suggest that the NYPD should issue Desk Appearance tickets, court summons or simply ask smokers to stop smoking and discard their drugs, instead of arresting individuals smoking marijuana in public.
Andrew Golub, from the National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) in New York City and from the University of Vermont, along with colleagues from NDRI, analysed the records of adult marijuana arrests made by the New York Police Department (NYPD) from January 1980 to December 2003. Golub et al. built maps showing the areas of New York City where these arrests took place, every year, from 1992 to 2003. The study was funded by the Marijuana Policy Project and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The results of Golub et al.'s study reveal that arrests for smoking marijuana in public shifted geographically between 1992 and 2003. In 1992, such arrests were scattered broadly throughout the city, with a slight concentration in Greenwich Village, Soho and Washington Heights in Manhattan. From 1996 onwards, ho
Contact: Juliette Savin