District Attorney Robert Johnson has ordered prosecutors to proceed with those cases only when the arresting police officer has been interviewed, The New York Times reported Tuesday. In the past, people allegedly on the grounds of New York housing projects without being tenants or invited guests could be prosecuted for trespassing based on a police officer's sworn statement.
Jeannette Rucker, chief of arraignments in the Bronx borough, told the police department in a letter that the goal of the new directive is to stop illegal prosecutions of tenants and legitimate visitors.
Steven Banks, head of the Legal Aid Society, applauded the shift.
"This is exactly what prosecutors should be doing before proceeding with criminal prosecutions -- namely making sure that formulaic statements by police officers actually have some basis to support the arrest and prosecution," Banks said.
Trespassing arrests dropped almost 40 percent in August compared with the same month in 2011. They were down only 5 percent in Manhattan and Brooklyn and increased considerably in Queens.
City police have been using the stop-and-frisk policy for a decade. While supporters say it has made poor neighborhoods safer, critics say thousands of black and Hispanic New Yorkers have been inconvenienced, humiliated and even arrested for no reason.