Blacks 3 times more likely to face pot charges in Westchester, report says

File photo of a marijuana plant. File photo of a marijuana plant. Photo Credit: AP

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Blacks in Westchester County are three-and-a-half times more likely than whites to face low-level marijuana charges, but the rate is under the statewide average and far below Manhattan and Brooklyn, where the rate is more than 9 to 1, according to data released Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The report found that based on 2,457 arrests in 2010, Westchester blacks were 3.68 times more likely to face arrests or summonses related to marijuana than whites. In other Hudson Valley counties, the arrests and increased likelihood for blacks were: Rockland, 1,107 arrests, 3.57 times; Orange, 1,700, 2.08; Dutchess, 899, 2.29; Ulster, 1,538, 2.93, and Putnam, 389, 2.27.

Wilbur Aldridge, the NAACP's mid-Hudson and Westchester region director, said the results were far from shocking.

"That comes as no surprise given that stop and frisk in the city (New York City) is very prevalent and we know that stop and frisk is applied to people of color," he said. "I'm sure that same would apply in Rockland and elsewhere because that's who they stop. The likelihood of them arresting you for marijuana or anything else is greater."

Statewide, blacks face marijuana charges at a rate 4.5 times that of whites. The county with the highest disparity: Brooklyn, where blacks are charged at a rate 9.68 times more than whites.

The report broke down 2010 data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Criminal Court of New York and the state Department of Criminal Justice. The offenses included misdemeanors and violations, but not felonies.

The White Plains Police Department declined to comment on the report, and a spokesman for the Yonkers police was unavailable.

"It's not just that the NYPD has a marijuana problem," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman, referring to officers stopping blacks. "It's police departments across New York State."

Though the rates in Brooklyn and Manhattan were 9.68 and 9.37 times higher for blacks, New York City's other boroughs showed less extreme differentials. Queens was 4.62, the Bronx was 5.06 and Staten Island was 4.47.

Outside of New York City, the county with the highest disparity was in Cortland, where blacks faced charges at a rate 8.42 times that of whites.

An earlier report by the NYCLU's parent group, the American Civil Liberties Union, found that New York State led the nation in 2010 with 10,698 marijuana possession arrests, outstripping No. 2 Texas by more than 29,000.

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