It’s the toughest place to toke in New York City.
A cluster of neighborhoods on the Queens-Nassau border have received the most pot summonses in the Big Apple for nine of the past 10 years, NYPD records show.
And it’s thanks largely to Lt. Michael Lauterborn — the boss of the narcotics and anti-crime teams for the last nine years at the 105th Precinct — who’s been offering incentives to ticket pot-smokers and other quality-of-life scofflaws, sources told The Post.
It’s clearly working. Cops in the 105th Precinct — which covers parts of Queens Village, Cambria Heights, Laurelton, Rosedale, and Springfield Gardens — wrote 1,851 tickets for pot possession last year, the most among the city’s 77 precincts and a hefty 9 percent of the citywide total.
“They force these guys to go out and write summonses — that’s how they get their Saturdays off and get easy overtime handed their way,” said one source.
A detective who once worked under Lauterborn called him “smart and dedicated” and praised his methods.
“He expected us to be aggressive in enforcing the law, especially around the trouble spots, resulting in crime suppression or … capturing those perps who were problematic for the community,” he said. “And he wanted us to use whatever enforcement tools we had to do so.”
The decade-long ticket blitz has sparked a fiery debate, with residents saying they’re being unfairly targeted, and cops insisting they’re simply maintaining the quality of life in the sprawling precinct.
“They’re coming out here looking for kids who smoke. They’re trying to fill quotas,” said Dion, 17, who griped that cops hunt for offenders outside Springfield Gardens H.S. complex.
And it’s not hard for cops to sniff out the weedheads.
“Some people just blatantly do it. They park, smoke, and blast music, they feel it’s eventually going to be legal,” said Laton Campbell, 20.
The stack of summonses is growing, with 70 percent more pot tickets in the 105th last year compared to 2015, records show. One out of every four summonses in the Southeast Queens precinct is for marijuana possession.
The 105th recorded 64 percent more tickets than the No. 2 pot-busting precinct, the 75th in East New York, Brooklyn.
Pot-possession summonses surged 55 percent while weed arrests fell 31 percent citywide over the past two years, according to NYPD and state criminal justice records. The city changed its pot enforcement policy in November 2014, so that violators caught carrying less than 25 grams of pot receive a ticket rather than handcuffs. Violators face a $100 to $250 fine and a court appearance instead of an arrest.
The 105th recorded 64 percent more tickets than the No. 2 pot-busting precinct
John Jay College Professor Peter Moskos, a former cop, said cops target pot and other quality-of-life violations to prevent larger crimes.
“It’s about the proactive policing that discovers marijuana and it’s about curbing other behavior,” he said. “It’s about … keeping people in line, and summonses are a tool they use.”
But Councilman Donovan Richards said quality of life is smoke and mirrors, accusing the precinct of having a ticket “quota system.”
“Until that is fixed we will continue to see these kinds of [summons] numbers,” he said. “I refuse to believe that Southeast Queens has more marijuana smokers than anywhere else in the city.”
Police spokesman Peter Donald said the department is “not focused on enforcement for its own sake.”
“We utilize the most precise tools available to reduce crime and respond to residents’ quality of life concerns where they exist,” he said. “This precision in 2016 led to fewer arrests, fewer summonses, and the safest year in New York City history.”
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