Dramatic Slump in NYC Arrests, Fines Hits Lawyers

NEW YORK (Reuters) -

A sharp drop in arrests and fines in New York may prove costly for the city, but it could already be hurting some traffic lawyers and bail bonds firms as fewer people are in trouble.

The slump in arrest volume — last week’s total was around half that recorded a year ago — is seen by supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio as evidence of a work slowdown by police officers angered by recent comments he made that they viewed as anti-police.

“We’re seeing less phone calls, less emails, less faxes from people with tickets that are newly issued,” said New York traffic lawyer Matthew Weiss. “It started at the beginning of the year.”

Revenues for his New York City traffic ticket business are down roughly 30 to 40 percent since the end of December.

“Definitely, it’s been very slow — a lot of attorneys are having issues as well,” said Miguel Rodrigues, co-owner of David Jakab Bail Bonds in Chinatown. “I would be concerned if it goes for a month.”

Some lawyers said they were seeing business as usual and any noticeable drop could be delayed as there can be a lag between the time a motorist gets a ticket and when they call a lawyer.

“Not everyone necessarily calls a lawyer the minute they get a ticket,” said attorney Scott Feifer,.

The number of arrests across the city plunged to 2,401 from 5,448 in the week ending Sunday compared with the same period the previous year, with parking and driving-related tickets down more than 90 percent.

Parking fines are a small but significant revenue source for the city. Revenues from parking violation fines for 2014 amounted to $542 million, or around $10 million a week — a fraction of the city’s $75 billion budget.

If parking ticket revenues take a long-term knock, it could pressure a budget that has had a persistent, though shrinking, long-term deficit. The New York City Comptroller’s office said they did not have enough data to be able to assess the financial impact of the drop in arrests and summonses.

Putting a positive spin on it, Bratton said the city may actually be saving money if summonses are not being written, because the city is not paying overtime to officers to go to court to testify.