RPD arrested 1 out of every 490 people for marijuana possession in 2018

March 07, 2019 08:49 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- News10NBC showed you last week the number of people who got arrested for marijuana possession in the suburbs. 

Now, we want to take you into the City of Rochester and look at part of the social justice aspect of this debate. 


We're going to show you how many people got arrested by Rochester Police for a small amount of marijuana in 2018. We're going to compare that to the numbers outside the city.

The groups pushing for legal marijuana say people in poorer areas are more likely to get arrested.  

And that's what our numbers show. 

In 2018, Rochester Police arrested 425 people for a small amount of marijuana. The charge is unlawful possession of marijuana or UPM. 

Legalizing small amounts of marijuana is part of what the state is debating right now. 

Alyssa Aguilera, co-executive director of Vocal NY: "For us, we first came to the issue because of the extraordinary number of arrests that were happening across New York."

Vocal NY is pushing for legalization. 

Aguilera: "So we were seeing first hand how a marijuana possession arrest could really have such terrible collateral consequences to people's lives."

Here is the data News10NBC compiled. 

These are the number of UPM arrests by local police departments in 2018: 

- Gates Police: 45

- Brighton Police: 18

- Brockport Police: 30

- Irondequoit Police: 36

- Webster Police: 21 (Down from 25)

- Greece Police: 59

- Fairport Police: 3

- Ogden Police: 35 (Down from 58)

Monroe County Sheriffs: 

- 2017: 115                              

- 2018: 76 

City of Rochester: 

- 2017: 514

- 2018: 425

We used population and marijuana possession arrests to create an apples to apples comparison. 

In Webster, one out of every 2,028 people got charged with UPM. In Brighton, it was one out of every 2,022. In Greece, it was one out of every 1,635 people. In Rochester, it was one out of every 490. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "What does that tell you if anything?"

Aguilera: "Yeah, I think what it tells us is that marijuana arrests are really an indicator of discriminatory and abusive policing practices. We see that marijuana arrests come because people are getting stopped more. They're getting their pockets and their backpacks searched. They're getting more police presence in their communities."

News10NBC shared that comment with the RPD.

They shared General Order #523 dated April 20, 2015. Section 3-E of the rules tell police officers they "must" ticket people for unlawful possession "if the conditions are met."

The mayor of Buffalo last month ordered Buffalo Police to stop ticketing people for unlawful possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

Here's where Rochester is different. 

We checked the jail census. Virtually no one goes to jail for a UPM ticket unless it violates probation or parole.

The practice of the Monroe County DA's Office is to dismiss the ticket as long defendants get a drug assessment and stay out of trouble. That means the defendants cannot get fined.

So possessing a small amount of marijuana is effectively de-criminalized in Monroe County even though almost 800 people got arrested for it last year. 


Berkeley Brean

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