MJP Releases New Report Detailing Trends in Misdemeanor Arrests in New York, 1980-2017

The Misdemeanor Justice Project is pleased to publish, Trends in Misdemeanor Arrests in New York, 1980 to 2017, which examines trends in misdemeanor arrests in New York City, Upstate Cities, and the Rest of the State.  We examines these trends by demographics, charges, and outcomes. Please see our Executive Summary for main findings.

Some key findings include:

Dramatic Declines in Misdemeanor Arrests: New York City and Upstate Cities (Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) experienced dramatic fluctuations in misdemeanor arrests from 1980 to 2017, with dramatic declines since 2010.  Declines in misdemeanor arrests are not limited to New York, our Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice has documented declines in misdemeanor enforcement in recent years in St. Louis, Seattle, and Louisville (and we will be tracking closely whether these trends will hold in forthcoming reports from Network partners in Durham, NC; Los Angeles, CA; Meridian, MS; and Prince Georges County, MD).

Highlights of Misdemeanor Declines in NYC and Upstate Cities:

  • In New York City, the rate of misdemeanor arrests (number of arrests per 100,000 people) increased by 213 percent in New York City from 1980 to 2010 (peak), before declining by 39 percent from 2010 to 2017.
  • In the Upstate Cities, the rate of misdemeanor arrests increased by 103 percent from 1980 to 1996 (peak), before declining by 46 percent from 1996 to 2017.
  • In 2017, the misdemeanor arrest rates for NYC (2,658 per 100,000) and Upstate Cities (2,629 per 100,000) were similar

Racial Differences in Arrests: In New York City, Upstate Cities, and the Rest of the State, the misdemeanor arrest rates for Blacks were consistently highest, followed by Hispanics, and then Whites.

Highlights of Racial Differences in NYC and Upstate Cities:

  • In New York City and Upstate Cities, Blacks and Hispanics experienced significant increases and then declines in rates of arrests for misdemeanors.  For example,  In New York City, the arrest rate for non-Hispanic Blacks was higher in 2017 (5,571 per 100,000) than in 1990 (4,539 per 100,000) but far lower than the peak of 9,517 in 2010.  
  • The difference between the rates of arrests for Blacks and Hispanics compared to Whites has changed little and has consistently been wider in New York City compared to Upstate Cities and the Rest of the State. 
  • In 2017, Blacks were 5.2 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for a misdemeanor in New York City, 3.1 times more likely to be arrested for a misdemeanor in Upstate Cities and 4.1 times more likely to be arrested for a misdemeanor in the Rest of the State. 
  • In 2017, Hispanics were 3.0 times more likely than Whites to be arrested for a misdemeanor in New York City, 1.5 times more likely to be arrested for a misdemeanor in Upstate Cities and 1.6 times more likely to be arrested for a misdemeanor in the Rest of the State

Person-related charges account for increasing share of misdemeanors: In all parts of the State, Misdemeanor crimes involving harm to a person (“person-related arrests,” such as simple assault) account for a larger proportion of misdemeanor arrests in 2017 as compared to 1980. In New York City and the Upstate Cities, person-related charges account for the largest proportion of misdemeanor arrests compared to all other charge categories including property/theft-related charges, vehicle/driving-related charges, marijuana, drugs other than marijuana, and others.

  • In 1980, person-related charges constituted 11.4 percent (7,381) of misdemeanor arrests in New York City, 18.5 percent (3,092) of arrests in Upstate Cities and 13.6 percent (14,827) of arrests in the Rest of the State. By 2017, these types of charges constituted 28.1 percent (43,796) of the misdemeanor arrests in New York City, 31.0 percent (5,092) in Upstate Cities and 21.8 percent (28,708) in the Rest of the State.