The 17,000 individuals named in the NYPD’s gang registry are 99 percent black or Latino, Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea revealed this week, according to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Shea, testifying Wednesday before the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, was talking publicly for the first time about one of the department’s most popular crime-fighting tools. He said the database is 65 percent African Americans, 24 percent non-white Hispanics, and 10 percent black Hispanics. He said the average age of those included is 27 and that 1,460 of those listed are younger than 18.
The gang database has been an object of mystery to the public and of ire to critics. Shea defended it as essential to “precision crime fighting.” For a person to be placed in the database, the department goes through a rigorous process to ensure they deserve to be there, Shea said. He said the database has been cut in half from 2014, when it stood at 34,000 names, and that names are reviewed every three years to see if they still deserve to be there. Defense attorney Jason Martin, who has been at the forefront of police reform efforts, was one of the dozens of people demonstrating outside the hearing. “This gang database — it’s an old Jim Crow-era tactic,” Martin said. “You label a group as different, then you treat them as second-class citizens.”