NYC prosecutors dropping hundreds of cases against looters

I am so old that I remember when National Guard troops were authorized to shoot looters on sight following natural disasters. The understanding back then was that if allowed to spread, looting was a mortal threat to the health of communities. Things are very different today, as NBC News (to its credit) reports:

In late May and early June 2020, looters smashed storefronts in the Bronx and Manhattan boroughs of New York City.

Many were caught on tape, some with their faces visible. Others even posted their own videos of their actions those nights on social media. Hundreds were arrested.

But a review of NYPD data by the investigative team at WNBC, the NBC owned station in New York, shows that a large percentage of the cases — particularly in the Bronx — were dismissed, and that many convictions were for counts like trespassing that carry no jail time.

"I was in total shock that everything is being brushed off to the side," said Jessica Betancourt, who owns an eyeglass shop that was looted and destroyed along Burnside Avenue in the Bronx last June.

According to the data, 118 arrests were made in the Bronx during the worst of the looting in early June.

Since then, the NYPD says the Bronx district attorney and the courts have dismissed most of those cases — 73 in all. Eighteen cases remain open and there have been 19 convictions for mostly lesser counts like trespassing, counts which carry no jail time.

The administration of justice in Manhattan, where many fancier stores were looted, is no better:

The NYPD data shows there were 485 arrests in Manhattan. Of those cases, 222 were later dropped and 73 resulted in convictions for lesser counts like trespassing, which carries no jail time. Another 40 cases involved juveniles and were sent to family court; 128 cases remain open.

A looted store in Manhattan (YouTube screengrab, cropped)

Prosecutors claim that evidence is lacking in some cases and cite overwork. But Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. has devoted enormous resources to finding a crime to prosecute former President Trump with, an outright abuse of his power, aimed at political intimidation and vengeance. But he’s full of compassion for looters:

Vance told his office, "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."

 New York City already faces a grim task recovering from the Covid shutdown, which has left many stores and restaurant spaces vacant, as the incumbent business folded under the weight of the lockdown, which we now know was totally unnecessary as well as unprecedented. Streets with lots of vacant stores are always creepy, and readily become hosts to crime because people don’t want to linger on the sidewalks.

Letting looters off scot-free or with minor misdemeanor punishment means that future looters will be emboldened. Under such circumstances, who in their right minds would want to open new stores In New York?

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