Looting Charges from Sandy Fall Flat

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, charges of looting were rampant, and the NYPD utilized what have been called “roundup” techniques to make arrests in various neighborhoods. We’re not exactly sure what these techniques were supposed to accomplish, but the record thus far indicates that the Department may well have ended up making a host of arrests without any legal basis.

Apparently, when notified that a particular area of the city, or a particular store, was allegedly being looted, the response from New York’s Finest was to go to the location, and arrest everyone in sight. While we are not in the habit of making this sort of claim, we wonder how else to explain the results of the many looting arrests, which were largely for burglary. Here is how the numbers read:

  • At least 50% of the looting arrests have been thrown out.
  • A highly publicized situation, involving a Coney Island Key Foods store, resulted in 16 arrests, but only two indictments were handed down, both for third degree burglary.
  • A Brooklyn grand jury dismissed charges against six of those arrested.
  • Less than a third of the Brooklyn cases will be prosecuted.
  • In Queens, only five indictments have resulted from 15 arrests.
  • Fifteen arrests in Rockaway have led to three dismissals and only five felony indictments.

Not surprisingly, the city is now bracing itself for a flood of lawsuits brought by many of those arrested, and then released when their charges were dismissed. They include one of the men who found himself at the Key Foods store during one of the roundups. The man, who is a barber, says he was going back to his apartment after visiting the Home Depot to get his and his family’s cell phones charged. Like most of the other suspects, bail was set high, in most cases at $100,000. The barber then spent nine days at Rikers Island, where he was allegedly strip searched on at least nine occasions. There are at least three other lawsuits that have been filed in similar cases, and more are expected.

We would have hoped, particularly with the amount of criticism being leveled at some other NYPD policies (“stop and frisk”, for example), that the Department would be a bit more circumspect and avoid the arrest of people based upon where they are, as opposed to what they may have done. In addition to leading to false charges, the arrests, while they may be indiscriminate, can nevertheless be discriminatory.

George Vomvolakis Law Offices
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New York, NY 10016
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