Last year, the police department stopped more than 59,000 people in public housing. Fewer than 9,000 of the stops resulted in arrests, according to a recent City Council briefing. Maybe Britt’s grandson was just unlucky, but he doesn’t see it that way. Neither do Britt and a handful of city politicians, including Council Member Rosie Mendez.
“It is my belief and the belief of many of the residents that reside in public housing,” Mendez said at a committee meeting in September, “that the New York City Police Department is targeting people in public housing because of where they live and because of their demographic composition.”
Britt’s grandson, like nearly half the residents of public housing, is black. More than 60 percent of those stopped for trespass in the city are black, as are more than 50 percent of those arrested, even though they make up just a quarter of the city’s population. Latino residents of public housing face much the same situation.
“The treatment of residents of NYCHA has been a longstanding issue of debate,” explains Johnathan Smith, an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund attorney working on the case. “I think the fact that this case is taking place so that people have the right, the ability to enjoy their residence, to have an impact on the NYPD, it’s really important.”