Statement by Vera Action on Responses to Times Square Incident Involving Immigrant Men and NYPD, and Need to Address Crime with Solutions Not Scare Tactics
February 8, 2024

New York, NY – The altercation caught on video between several immigrant men and two NYPD officers outside a homeless shelter in New York City last week is a reflection of bigger debates about the border, crime, policing, and criminal justice policies such as bail reform. Since that incident, members of the Guardian Angels were shown in a primetime television segment tackling a man to the ground whom they falsely accused of shoplifting and wrongly perceived to be a migrant simply because he was “speaking Spanish.” Vera Action, a 501(c)(4) organization affiliated with the Vera Institute of Justice that provides real-time research and insights to shape public debate about criminal justice, crime, and safety, released the following statement. 

Insha Rahman, director of Vera Action, said:

“We deserve real solutions to crime that follow the law and are grounded in what works to keep communities safe, instead of knee-jerk reactions and scare tactics. The inflamed tensions, rhetoric, and now outright violence surrounding this incident are not what New Yorkers need to stay safe. 

“While others can rush to judgment, DA Bragg has a responsibility to weigh all the evidence and seek safety, accountability, and justice. And the DA’s office has done so, by charging the men for whom it has evidence of involvement in the altercation with the NYPD and, importantly, declining to prosecute the men arrested for whom there was no evidence of involvement. Arresting and detaining the wrong people simply to posture as tough on crime or to satisfy calls for law and order doesn’t advance accountability or justice, and it will not make us safer.  

“The inflamed tensions surrounding this incident have emboldened vigilantes like the Guardian Angels to commit an act of violence out of accordance with the law. This is not how a safe and just society works. This assault comes less than a year after the killing of Jordan Neely, another vigilante act spurred by crime panic. This is a troubling tide that we cannot and should not tolerate. 

“We deserve a criminal justice system that holds everyone accountable, whether the victim of assault is a police officer or a passerby assumed to be an immigrant.” 

About Vera Action: Vera Action is an independent but aligned 501(c)(4) organization to the Vera Institute of Justice 501(c)(3). At Vera Action, we harness the power of advocacy, lobbying, and political strategy to end mass incarceration, protect immigrants’ rights, restore dignity to people behind bars, and build safe and thriving communities.