January 6, 2019
Jeff Jones, Community Service Society
(212) 614-5435 (office); (617) 217-1187 (cell)
CSS report finds a significant rise in 311 quality-of-life complaints as neighborhoods gentrify, increasing the likelihood of unwanted, and possibly dangerous, interactions with the police.
New York, NY - Reports of the police being called to investigate routine and non-criminal activities by people of color are increasingly common and underscore how biased police enforcement can target poor communities. But something as innocuous as a noise complaint to 311 can also put neighbors in danger, adding tension and increased police interactions as new residents attempt to challenge long established cultural norms.
The latest report from the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), New Neighbors and the Over-Policing of Communities of Color, examines the thousands of quality-of-life complaints made to the New York City’s 311 hotline that are referred to the NYPD (more than 108,000 for 2017).
The report finds, in gentrifying neighborhoods (areas of predominantly low-income people-of-color that experience a large influx of new white residents), a significant increase in complaints leading to interactions with the police; between 2011 and 2016, complaints referred to the NYPD rose 40% faster in these changing communities of color than those that didn’t see an influx of white residents This is especially true if these neighborhoods contain new city-financed affordable housing. Police actions (summonses and arrests) based on these calls, while not very common, are also significantly higher in these gentrifying neighborhoods.
“Complaints from newcomers to gentrifying neighborhoods about noise and how public space is used can pose a threat to prevailing notions of community—an attempt to dictate who belongs and how belonging is defined,” said author Harold Stolper, “These complaints can lead to an increased police presence, which is not merely a consequence of neighborhood change, but also a powerful tool for incoming, affluent residents to re-define how a community operates and regulate access to public space.”
The report also releases new data from our latest Unheard Third poll of New York City residents. 58% of low-income blacks and Hispanics who experienced an encounter with the police over the past year said it made them feel unsafe and worried about what would happen to them, and 21% of low-income black residents said they avoided contacting the police because it made them feel less safe (compared to 9% of low-income white residents).