Lawsuit Challenges NYPD Patrols of Private Apartment Buildings

Three legal groups filed a federal class-action suit March 28 against the New York Police Department’s “Operation Clean Halls” patrols of thousands of private apartment buildings. 

The suit, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Bronx Defenders, charges that the program violates the rights of residents of those buildings and their guests. It seeks an injunction ordering the police to stop arresting people for trespassing in Clean Halls buildings without establishing whether or not the person is authorized to be there.

More than 300,000 people were stopped on suspicion of trespassing between 2006 and 2010—largely black and Latino New Yorkers—and about 16,000 a year are arrested, according to police data cited by the NYCLU. In the South Bronx’s 40th Precinct, more than 5,000 people were stopped for suspicion of trespassing in 2010.

“They arrested me even though I was doing nothing wrong—just walking with some friends, minding our own business,” A.O., a 17-year-old charged with trespassing in 2011 after visiting a friend in Far Rockaway, said in an NYCLU statement. 

Another plaintiff, Jacqueline Yates of the Bronx, said her two teenage sons are regularly harassed by police officers in her building’s public areas, and her friends and family are reluctant to visit her out of fear of being arrested for trespassing.