Stop, Frisk, and Penalize
I was talking to Beauty as she sat on the concrete wall outside of Lafayette Park, across from the methadone clinic in Hunts Point. She is an addict and sex worker. Two officers approached and asked me to stand aside so they could question Beauty. What was her name? Where was she from? What was in her cup? “Soda” (they smelled, yes soda). Did she have any outstanding warrants? Let me see your bag? Why are your shoes off? “I am hot and relaxing.” A few minutes later she is charged with disorderly conduct. Her conduct then was about as disorderly as mine, but her past conduct far more. This is a common occurrence for the addicts, homeless and sex workers in Hunts Point. It is more than stop and frisk: It’s stop, frisk, and penalize.
These nuisance tickets, such as disorderly conduct, come with a future court date, that if missed, turns into an outstanding warrant. With little legal help and a very long rap sheet, few addicts will fight them.
How is this helpful to either the community or the addict? Is the eighty-seventh ticket going to encourage Beauty to stop walking the streets? They are already weighed down by homelessness and addiction. These tickets are just another barrier to escaping the streets, another stigma that pushes them further from help and farther into the fringes. Perhaps in some communities its used to push the addicts out, but in Hunts Point, the city’s poorest neighborhood, where are they going to be pushed to?
Beauty needed far more than a ticket. She is falling fast into a cycle of addiction, being roughed up by the streets. Jail would have at least fed her, perhaps cleaned the heroin out of her system, put her closer to help. What about an officer who gently talked to her, to remind her how fast she’s fallen, to ask her what example is she setting for the kids in the park behind her? That would be far better than being treated like a pariah, roughly and rudely questioned, given a ticket that is just one more obstacle.
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