Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (left) is moving forward with a controversial plan to decriminalize such offenses as urinating in public — part of an effort to rollback on criminal offenses used by police to stop and detain suspects under the “broken windows” approach of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Critics have charged that the murder rate and other crimes are already up under Mayor Bill de Blasio due to the tensions with police and new policies against stop and frisk maneuvers.
Mark-Viverito appears to believe that criminalizing urination is only a pretext for police stops or a minor offense for the city. Most citizens are likely to disagree. First, there are the health issues of human waste in the street. Second, there are the economic issues of a major tourism location that will now treat urination as a minor matter subject to a summons, which is unlikely to be honored. Finally, given the large number of homeless people and drinkers in New York, the decriminalization of this offense could trigger a urine tsunami as Mark-Viverito removes the threat of arrest.
Mark-Viverito also wants to decriminalize public consumption of alcohol and jumping subway turnstiles. Those are likely to also result in behavorial changes that are inimical for the city. The subway jumping is particularly troubling for a city struggling with its budget issues. If people are seen as walking away when caught, it is likely to encourage greater numbers of jumpers with both budgetary and safety implications for the system. Yet, there is an argument to make on this crime and, in my view, it is a closer question than the public urination decriminalization effort of Mark-Viverito.
The other decriminalized offenses of riding a bike on a sidewalk, failure to obey a park sign, or being in a park after dark are more debatable issues.
I am honestly mystified why politicians like Mark-Viverito would see public urination as something for decriminalization with such obvious negative implications for the city. As many on this blog know, I have been a long advocate for decriminalization of many offenses and a critic of the over-criminalization of America. However, these two offenses seem legitimately criminal. Turnstile jumping is a form of theft that, in the aggregate, costs the city greatly. It also involves people leaping over turnstiles in crowded lines or spaces. Public urination is particularly costs for a city that needs to maintain a tourism base and creates unhealthy walking areas for citizens.
The New York Post was its usual subtle self on its view of the change:
What do you think?
Source: New York Post