My Neighborhood Police State

Posted September 19, 2007

I live in Crown Heights, which is a mostly West Indian and African American neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’ve been there for two years, and like most black neighborhoods in New York, the cops are pretty much a constant presence.

Two months ago I was walking home from the subway one night about 11 o’clock and walked into a crowd of cops taking up the sidewalk for an entire block. Probably 40 cops were there, not in full riot gear, but near enough. I watched them from my window for about half an hour, and as near as I could tell all they did was sweep up a couple of kids with pot in their pockets.

police crane on the ground

I didn’t think it was possible, but things have gotten worse. Last month, after someone got stabbed on my block, the cops brought in this machine that looks like its out of that horrible Tom Cruise movie War of the Worlds.

At night they put floodlights up on three corners and raise this crane- like thing up in the air, so they can video-tape everything happening 360 degrees around the thing. The first night I came home and this thing was going on, I thought they were shooting a movie on my block (which they do do from time to time). They kinda were, I guess, but I’m much happier to see the Teamsters who come with those other movies than the FOP members working on this reality TV episode.

police crane on the ground

In a neighborhood where rents are skyrocketing, and people are getting displaced, I can’t help think about all that money New York sinks into occupying places like my little corner of Crown Heights. I did a little digging and found out that the city is spending almost 4 billion dollars a year to maintain an army of close to 38,000 police officers.

For a bit of perspective, consider the fact that Housing Here and Now, a group pushing for more affordable housing in the city, is fighting to get a billion dollars in new funds over the next decade. According to them, this kind of cash could finance more than 10,000 new affordable housing units and preserve a minimum of 5,000 existing units throughout New York City.

Sounds like one pretty obvious solution to New York’s housing crisis is taking “just” a quarter of the current NYPD budget and putting into something more useful than occupying my block with this crazy robotic bullshit.


One response to “My Neighborhood Police State”

  1. kateg Avatar

    I moved to the same neighborhood a few months ago; the extent of police presence was a shock. Because i had recently returned from a trip to South Africa, I was particularly shocked by the cops method of “communicating” with the community by driving around and yelling orders and requests for help from sound trucks–this was very popular in SA, and that was the first time I’d seen it. I wasn’t aware that the NYPD used the same tactic!