Hoping to reduce the number of outstanding warrants, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has proposed granting amnesty to the city’s 1.2 million low-level offenders who have open summonses.
Bratton has suggested pardoning the open warrants, some of which extend as far back as 2005, for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct, drinking in public or not cleaning up after a dog.
“Warrants never go away,” Bratton told the Associated Press. “There’s no expiration date. It would be great to get rid of a lot of the backlog. It’s not to our benefit from a policing standpoint to have all those warrants floating around out there.”
Bratton’s opponents feel that excusing low-level offenders could lead to an increase in criminal activity.
“I think it would be a very delicate conversation where we want to find the right balance,” city council Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson said to a CBS affiliate in New York. “We also want all New Yorkers to respect the laws we have on the books because laws are meant to be implemented. They’re meant to be enforced.”
Supporters of the program point to other cities such as Atlanta where amnesty programs have garnered positive results. In many cases, officials say, the offenders with open warrants are poor or mentally ill, unable to pay their fines or show up to their court date.
Though Bratton has yet to outline a concrete plan of action, he suggests notifying everyone who does have a court summons and telling them that the city would waive their warrants if they come forward.
“Will it be feasible?” Bratton said to the Associated Press. “I don’t know. But I’m open to discussing it.”