The New York Police Department has a rapidly-growing, secret database of almost 20,000 suspected gang members, which includes mostly minorities and many children as young as thirteen. As Nick Pinto reported for the Intercept, the NYPD touts its “Criminal Group Database” as a tool for “precision policing” that is intended to help officers find and arrest “the few who weaken the fabric of our neighborhoods through violence and intimidation.” Nevertheless, many critics have objected to the NYPD’s use of its database as, in Pinto’s words, “a dangerous form of police overreach, subjecting black and brown New Yorkers to surveillance, harassment, and criminal jeopardy based on factors as innocent as who they walk to school with and what colors they wear.”
Some of NYPD’s high-profile cases have been connected to this database. These include cases that the NYPD has pursued in cooperation with federal agencies in which suspects were indicted under Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, statutes. RICO statutes govern criminal interference in interstate or international commerce and they enlarge the civil and criminal consequences of many state and federal crimes.
Criminal defense lawyers argue that prosecutors refer to the database often and use it against their clients. Children who are arrested go to juvenile detention centers where they become friends with other juvenile offenders.
Source: Nick Pinto, “NYPD Added Nearly 2,500 New People to Its Gang Database in the Last Year,” The Intercept, June 28, 2019, theintercept.com/2019/06/28/nypd-gang-database-additions/.
Student Researcher: Lauren Koenigshofer (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Roxanne Ezzet (Sonoma State University)