An initial glimpse into social distancing enforcement in New York City shows that the majority of those arrested in Brooklyn were black, according to the first statistics made public.
Of the 40 people arrested for violating social distancing rules in the borough between March 17 and May 4, 35 were black, four were Hispanic, and one was white, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
The office said it declined to prosecute all 40 cases. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez had announced in mid-March that his office would not prosecute low-level crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic.
New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, has been taking its social distancing guidelines seriously. New York Police Department officers are visiting restaurants, bars, supermarkets, salons and public spaces to remind people of the ban on congregating and to practice social distancing.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the NYPD’s April data for social distancing summonses should be released Friday.
The mayor said the number of summonses that have been issued is low, but there were indications that some things need to be fixed.
“When I saw those (Brooklyn) numbers I found them to be an indicator that something’s wrong and we need to fix it. And we will fix it,” said de Blasio, who added that officers will get more training and clearer protocols.
“We do not accept disparity,” de Blasio said. “When we see disparity we’re going to address it.”
The summons data collected by the NYPD was over a six-week span, from March 16 to May 5, de Blasio said, adding that the NYPD showed huge restraint.
“The numbers of arrests and summonses are extraordinarily low,” de Blasio said. He said in some cases there were 10 summonses issued a day.
NYPD has taken heat on enforcement measures
The NYPD has been under fire after a video taken in Manhattan over the weekend appeared to show New York City police and New Yorkers who are not wearing masks clash after police observed a group not adhering to social distancing guidelines.
An officer was stripped of his gun and badge when the video emerged of him pulling a stun gun on a man and then punching and slapping him on the ground. The officer had been sued for false arrest and assault in the past, according to court filings.
On Thursday, during a live Q&A session with officers on Twitter, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea addressed the enforcement issue.
He said the NYPD has been enforcing social distancing laws that didn’t exist three months ago and the officers have been educating people, warning people, and getting compliance from people on social distancing.
“We’ve been enforcing social distancing all over the city and we’ve been doing it with an extremely light touch,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that there has been controversy on how the NYPD is enforcing social distancing. “We have to make sure that we are impartial in how we enforce the law,” Shea said.
“I’m going to look at every incident and I’m going to call it as I see it. And if the cops in a particular incident were wrong, they’re going to hear from me on that,” he added.
Over 2.5 million people live in the borough of Brooklyn, according to the latest U.S. Census information.
In a tweet on Wednesday Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, said police need to get “out of the business of social distancing enforcement, because this isn’t enforcement.”
“This is a moment of re-culturing,” he said. “People are not used to interacting with the police this way and it is causing major negative impacts, and a lot of it has to do with the inconsistent ways policing is being done.”
CNN has reached out to other New York City district attorney’s offices for more information and data on social distancing arrests.
NYC mayor: Number of people admitted into some parks will be limited
De Blasio said Friday the city will limit the number of people who can go into some parks to help with social distancing.
The mayor said they are experimenting with this idea and he hopes it will save lives.
When people go into the park they will have limited time and if it works the city will use it in other parks, de Blasio said.
Hudson River Park Piers 45 and 46, in Manhattan, will be under new experimental restrictions beginning this weekend, after those parks got too crowded last weekend, the mayor said.
Domino Park, in Brooklyn, will be monitored, according to the mayor.
CNN’s Rob Frehse and Mark Morales contributed to this report