During Eric Adams’s first six months as New York City mayor, misdemeanor arrests have increased 25 percent, the first increase in nearly a decade, Bloomberg reports. It's still too early to see whether these arrests have had any impact on the safety of the city. Crimes like fare evasion, petty theft and offenses committed with children present are being cracked down on, helping drive the increase. “We’re seeing arrests come through for things that we weren’t seeing for a long time,” said Eliza Orlins, a public defender with the Legal Aid Society who ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan district attorney last year. “These are often cases that are minor violations — sleeping on a park bench, taking up two seats on the subway — it cycles people through the criminal justice system.”
Nine percent of the detainees at the city’s troubled Rikers Island jail complex are there on misdemeanor charges, according to city data. The 25-percent increase in misdemeanor arrests between January and June of this year marks the first year-over-year increase since 2014. Low-level assault, theft and drug possession accounted for nearly 51 percent of those misdemeanors. Nearly 90 percent of those arrested were people of color. It’s unclear what impact the increased arrests are having on crime, especially the violent incidents that Adams has repeatedly highlighted as problematic and unacceptable. District attorneys’ prosecutorial decision-making determines whether arrests result in prosecutions and jail time. With some categories of violent crime and property crime up lately, the latest arrest figures are sure to factor into the debate over how best to address public safety and whether the city is sliding back into an era of high crime — or an era of excessive, racially disproportionate enforcement.