New York City district attorneys have decided to drop hundreds of cases against looters who participated in the riots that rocked both the city and the country in the summer of 2020 after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring.
“Those numbers, to be honest with you, is disgusting,” said Jessica Betancourt, who owns an eyeglass shop. Betancourt’s business was looted and then destroyed during the unrest last year. “I was in total shock that everything is being brushed off to the side.”
An analysis of New York Police Department data showed that police made 118 arrests in the Bronx in June of last year during the height of protests and riots. While many of those arrested for looting had been caught on camera or bragged about their actions on social media, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark has dropped 73 of the cases. Meanwhile, there have been 19 convictions for lesser offenses such as trespassing.
A similar story has played out in Manhattan, where 222 of the 485 cases containing charges of looting and burglary have been dropped. Another 73 suspects saw their charges reduced, while 128 cases remain open.
Betancourt, who is vice president of a local merchants association, said many business leaders are upset that suspects are walking away without consequences after many of their businesses were severely damaged in the unrest.
Wilbur Chapman, a former NYPD Chief of Patrol, went on to say that if the city district attorneys are struggling, they might want to consider a change of employment.
“If they are so overworked that they can’t handle the mission that they’re hired for, then maybe they should find another line of work,” Chapman went on to say. “It allowed people who committed crimes to go scot-free.”
NYPD Deputy Inspector Andrew Arias shared Chapman’s view, stating that police put in a lot of hard work and effort into tracking down the suspects who participated in the looting so they could be charged and the business owners given justice.
“We had to analyze each case individually and see if, in fact, we could prove the right person had committed the crime,” Arias pointed out.
An internal memo revealed that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance allegedly told his prosecutors that there were over 600 burglary arrests and 3,500 unindicted felony cases that have been put on hold during the pandemic. He then instructed prosecutors to review the cases for criminal histories of the defendants, if police could put them at the scene, and if they caused “any damage to the store.”
“For many of these commercial burglaries, you will be asked to reduce the initial felony charge to a misdemeanor and to dispose of the case … with an eye towards rehabilitation,” Vance reportedly told his office in the memo.
Vance then went on to stated that prosecutors should work toward reaching a “continued goal to achieve consistency and equitable treatment in these cases.”