NYC Testing New Approach to Some Teen Arrestees

NEW YORK (AP) -

Some teenagers arrested on low-level charges may soon get their cases dropped without ever going to court, if they complete community service or educational programs, authorities said Tuesday.

Starting as soon as next month in two police precincts, 16- and 17-year-olds without prior arrests may get a chance to end shoplifting, graffiti-writing, trespassing and some other nonviolent misdemeanor cases before even getting arraigned. The aim is to give teens guidance but spare them from court cases that often get dismissed anyway, and to conserve court and police resources.

“How far will it go to create a climate of trust if a young person who has done nothing more serious than fail to pay a subway fare on a school day receives not a trip downtown and a docket number, but a real intervention in his life,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said.

Many minor misdemeanor cases ultimately get dismissed after arraignments and six months or longer of avoiding re-arrest. But in the meantime, defendants have court dates that can mean missing work or school, and they have an open criminal case that can pop up in background checks.

Under the new program, their “contact with the criminal justice system, hopefully, will begin and end right with the precinct,” Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said. He expects a few dozen teens to qualify this year.