By: Gligor Tashkovich (United States)
I got a text message at about 9:30 am in the morning on Thursday with the cryptic words, “She was arrested.” The message was from Jeffrey. Last October, I had finally succeeded (after months of trying) to move him and his partner Nadine off the pavement and into a temporary shelter.
I wrote back, “How can I help?”
And then he called me. He explained that on their way back to their shelter the night before, some thug tried to jump Nadine. Jeffrey interceded and took a slash on his arm. Nadine had dressed it with peroxide and bandages and they went to sleep. He mentioned that he had called the police and that they had responded reasonably quickly but Jeffrey didn’t have the sense that any action would be taken because he wasn’t anybody.
At 4:00 am, however, they were woken up by a loud knock on the door. There were four policeman standing in the hallway who had an outstanding warrant to arrest Nadine. Jeffrey said that the police officers went out of their way to block their names on their uniforms so that he couldn’t write them down. He also said that they forbid Nadine to take her phone with her and that they forbid her to leave her food stamp card with Jeffrey (since they have a joint account with all the credits on her card).
Jeffrey was distraught and helpless. Their room is on the 5th floor of a walk-up shelter. There are no internet or computer facilities. Even with an internet connection in my apartment, it took me many hours just to discover where Nadine was being held. I made call after call to police precincts, the public housing police squad, the overarching Bronx patrol police, the Bronx Warrants Squad, the courthouse, Bronx Legal Aid, etc. There was no way that Jeffrey could have looked up this information on his own.
Over the course of the next six hours, I spoke with Bronx Legal Aid three times to brief them and see if Nadine had been brought into court yet. Jeffrey meanwhile was convinced that all kinds of awful things were happening to Nadine at the hands of the police. He said that people he knows have been in situations where the police withhold methadone treatment just to see an addict go through withdrawal.
In the end, however, Bronx Legal Aid was absolutely amazing. When the police finally brought Nadine to the courthouse around 2:00 pm, Bronx Legal Aid stepped up and got the charges dismissed. Also, Nadine said that she had cooperated with the police. They were so nice that they even drove her to get her daily methadone treatment. Case closed.
And what terrible crime had Nadine committed that warranted being yanked out of bed at 4 am to be arrested? In 2012, she had jumped a turnstile during the winter months in order to spend a cold night in a heated subway car. She was caught and a judge assigned her to two days of community service. When she failed to perform this community service, a warrant was issued for her arrest. The system had now finally caught up with her because she was living in a NYC shelter. Think about the public resources expended over a then-$2.50 subway turnstile jumping charge.
What makes me so angry are two things:
I have been at subway stations — especially at the Manhattan 77th Street and Lexington Station — when schools get out — and the kids (even the private school kids!) routinely walk through the emergency exit or jump the turnstile like it is a sport and right within view of the MTA employee sitting in the farecard booth. I’m quite sure they never get arrested.
The shelter where Nadine & Jeffrey are living for the moment is riddled with drug users and pushers (except them). The police never come and expel people living there. Priorities are seriously messed up here.
When her case was dismissed, Nadine walked more than a mile to get home to the shelter from the courthouse. After she cleaned Jeffrey’s injury from the slashing, she called me to say that she is now determined to keep turning her life around and that she wants to leave New York City and go upstate to enroll in a 28-day further detox and behavioral modification program. I’m rooting for her to make it.