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News :: Social Welfare
This is why we need more police
06 Aug 2005
What would we do if the police weren't here to protect us from a situation like the one described below?
The New York Times
August 6, 2005
An Icy Vendor Is Put on Ice With a Wagonload of Legalese
By SABRINA TAVERNISE

There are days in the searing New York summer when an old-fashioned icy - shaved ice soaked in fruit-flavored syrup - tastes so good that it feels as if it should be illegal. One such afternoon came a few weeks ago, a Tuesday, when José de la Cruz Luna, 57, was selling his colorful, chilling treats on the streets of the Bronx.

Mr. Luna's young customers surrounded him as he literally scraped out a living in the 91-degree heat. Then two police officers walked up. They asked if had a license. Mr. Luna said he did not.

In the annals of New York City crime, of bad guys rousted and busted by men in blue, the arrest of the icy man may not go down as a careermaking caper. It will likely never be taught at the police academy. Asked for comment, a spokeswoman even said, "We don't have time to entertain stuff like that."

But the language in the paperwork provides, at the very least, a sharp summer contrast between the world of police jargon and the world of the street, of a vast law enforcement organization bearing down on a single sweaty sidewalk vendor.

According to the criminal complaint, "Deponent states that he observed approximately four un-apprehended individuals surrounding defendant and said cart, and further observed one un-apprehended individual hand defendant a sum of United States currency."

"In exchange, defendant handed to said un-apprehended individual an icy."

The "un-apprehended individuals" were customers, many of them children. The defendant was the man selling them. The deponent was the policeman, and the sum of United States currency was one dollar.

Some would argue that selling an icy on a day as hot as July 19 was more a public service than an illegal enterprise. In fact, his customers tried. "They were saying, 'Dios mío! Leave the sellers alone," Mr. Luna said on Thursday, back at his painted wooden cart, with children swarming around like flies.

Then Mr. Luna, a mild-mannered man wearing spectacles, admitted what was true: He did not have a license for his $60-a-day operation of ice and syrup. Not then, on July 19, and not now.

Here's how the police recorded that fact:

"Deponent further states that he approached defendant and asked defendant in sum and substance if he had a vendor's license and/or a tax certificate. And defendant stated in sum and substance: NO."

The officers arrested Mr. Luna and led him away from his cart. Later, in the 46th Precinct station house, Spanish-speaking police officers who knew Mr. Luna from the neighborhood - and who sometimes bought ices from him - expressed surprise. "They said, 'What are you doing here?'" Mr. Luna said.

Eventually, Mr. Luna was taken to the courthouse. He was put in a holding pen with other men. He did not know why they had been arrested and did not talk with them. He was assigned a young lawyer named Josh Bowers.

Mr. Bowers, of the Bronx Defenders, a group that provides legal counsel to the indigent, took the case to his colleagues to share the details. "I said, 'Do you believe it?' " he said. "The guy has absolutely no criminal record, he's 57 years old, not to mention that it was the hottest day of the year."

Just to clarify, it was not the hottest day of the year, although it may have felt that way.

According to Mr. Bowers, icy cases are uncommon, but not unheard of. Mr. Luna said the day after his arrest that at least two others were arrested for selling ices in the same area.

Mr. Luna's case was closed in a legal arrangement that cancels the arrest in six months, and sometime after midnight he was on his way home. The police officers returned every penny of the $240 he had had in his pocket that day, most of which was supposed to go to pay his family's electric bill.

And his customers keep coming. On Thursday, two sisters in shorts, ages 8 and 7, ordered cherry ices. A large man wearing a Mets baseball cap and a gold chain ordered two flavors in one cup, crème and strawberry. ("Like strawberry cheese cake.") A man with a British accent, speaking Spanish, ordered raspberry.

Mr. Luna, wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a baseball cap, stood selling, his ice dripping.

He still did not have a license, nor had he figured out a better way to earn a living. "You'll find me here again," he said. "Whenever it's possible."

Or, put another way: The defendant stated that, if future circumstances are favorable to a resumption of business, he fully intends to return to the aforementioned location so un-apprehended individuals can exchange a sum of United States currency for an icy.

Seth Kugel contributed reporting for this article.

This work is in the public domain
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Re: This is why we need more police
06 Aug 2005
" ...un-apprehended individuals can exchange a sum of United States currency for an icy.."

whoa,
the children of America's cities are pre-criminalised nowadays - "Nice Work, Officer Friendly!!"
Re: This is why we need more police
08 Aug 2005
Great article, Tony. Thanks for posting.