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NYPD, City Council seek to bridge gap on decriminalizing low-level offenses

The New York City Council is negotiating with the de Blasio administration and Police Commissioner William Bratton over decriminalizing low-level crimes such as public urination and transit-fare evasion -- a change the commissioner previously said would leave the offenses without any "bite."

Earlier this week, he struck a more conciliatory tone, and the state's chief judge said such offenses often are better handled civilly.

Under the council proposal, championed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), the crimes would become civil offenses punishable with a monetary fine instead of handcuffs and jail.

"You have people that are being jailed for a week, two weeks, for some of these offenses," she said Tuesday.

Also on her list of offenses being considered for reclassification: presence in a closed park after dark, bicycle riding on the sidewalk and public alcohol drinking, according to her spokesman Eric Koch.

The council has not yet introduced legislation on the matter, and among the hurdles to address is buy-in by NYPD cops, supporters say.

"There may be situations, if they don't choose to be partners, where it's hard for us to achieve the goals that we're looking to achieve through legislation," Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) said.

Asked about NYPD concerns that a person getting ticketed would not be legally obligated to show identification, Lander said: "On first blush, I'm confident we can come up with a way that the NYPD can ask for and get somebody's identification as part of writing the summonses."

Bratton, who earlier this year rejected the proposal outright, now says he's willing to talk.

After riding the subway with Mark-Viverito Monday following a joint appearance, he said: "I will continue to maintain a dialogue with her, the mayor and other criminal justice experts in order to address the issue of quality-of-life summonses and the safety of our city."

Bratton has said the enforcement and summonses "has been trending downward."

"But even as crime levels decrease, I must ensure that our officers are able to keep our city safe," Bratton added.

Separately Monday, the state's chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said his courts are "handling far too many cases to be able to adjudicate them."

"A better policy approach may well be to substitute civil penalties for some of these offenses and assign responsibility for adjudicating them to an administrative tribunal," he said in a speech.

The mayor's press office declined to comment, except to point to the mayor's past remarks calling the council's proposal "certainly worthy of discussion" but affirming his support of broken windows policing, in which the authorities crack down on petty crimes in an attempt to deter major ones.

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