Young African American and Latino mothers with their children walk down the bustling blocks of Liberty and Fulton in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Boys’ sneakers scuffle on the cement courts at the park where they play a pickup basketball game.
East New York is home to nearly 175,000 people. Less than 10 percent are Caucasian and most are younger than 45 years old. Many of them seldom leave Brooklyn. About 35 percent live below the poverty line, and only about 8 percent have earned a college degree. The 75th Precinct, which encompasses the area, has accounted for the second-highest number of marijuana possession summons in New York in 2015, similar to the years when it accounted for the most marijuana arrests.
Warm summer weekends in East New York usually mean block parties and young men on the porches of their row homes smoking joints. The police who patrol the 75th Precinct, the second-largest in the city, often issue these young men minor marijuana violations, which land them at the county’s central bookings. Often, they are ordered to pay a fine.
Although Mayor Bill de Blasio decriminalized marijuana possession in November 2014, police still issue numerous violations for public marijuana use in low-income minority neighborhoods of New York City such as East New York.
Citywide, the police issued more than 3,800 marijuana-related summonses alone in the first three months of this year – a pace that would exceed the total of 13,377 in 2014. Small-scale marijuana possession violations are the fourth-most frequent summons charges, after consumption of alcohol, disorderly conduct and public urination.