An NYPD officer enforces social distancing at Domino Park in Williamsburg. (Gregory P. Mango)
The city’s five district attorneys offices aren’t prosecuting most social distancing-related arrests, officials said Tuesday.
“As a matter of policy our office declines to prosecute arrests for social distancing and other violations of the recent emergency executive orders,” said Manhattan DA spokesman Danny Frost.
The office is pursuing only a handful of more serious offenses stemming from social-distancing stops, he said.
Out of six cases that were referred to the office, two are being prosecuted, including a 27-year-old man who was charged with resisting arrest after he refused an officer’s command to disperse.
The NYPD announced Tuesday that there have been 125 “COVID-19 related” arrests.
The Brooklyn DA’s office is also declining to prosecute certain misdemeanors and violations, said spokesman Oren Yaniv.
“This is pursuant to our COVID-19 policy of declining certain low-level offenses where there is no victim or public safety component,” he said, adding that the policy applied to a wide array of crimes to reduce the number of defendants in the system.
Bronx DA Darcel Clark has taken a similar position.
“As with arrests for other low-level non-violent offenses, we decline to prosecute violations solely for social distancing enforcement,” she said. “Whenever possible, NYPD should issue summonses instead of making live arrests.”
She said that her office is aware of 22 distancing related arrests that each involve multiple charges.
Queens DA Melinda Katz said her office will not prosecute distancing arrests. “Nobody wants a health crisis to fuel a criminal justice crisis,” she said in a statement. About 20 distancing related arrests were referred to her office.
Richmond County DA Michael McMahon’s office has received zero arrests stemming from city’s COVID-19 policy, a spokesman said.
“If a misdemeanor or felony arrest related to social-distancing enforcement were made by police, we would evaluate the facts and evidence on an individual basis before making a charging decision, as we do in all cases,” McMahon said in a statement.
The NYPD has issued nearly 400 summonses for violations of social-distancing protocols or other emergency measures related to the coronavirus — but those aren’t handled by the DA’s offices.
These stops can lead to arrests if a person doesn’t have identification or disobeys a police officer’s order.
President of the Police Benevolent Association Patrick Lynch said there was little point in making arrests that aren’t prosecuted.
“We’re not just wasting our time — we’re unnecessarily jeopardizing our health and careers,” he said. “The NYPD brass has to stop this charade and let cops focus on our core public safety mission.”
People of color accounted for more than 90 percent of COVID-related arrests and 80 percent of social-distancing summonses leading to unfavorable comparisons to the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.