Police are more lenient with women than men

By Sonali Chigurupati

(Judith-Gibson Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

New York City is famous for many things, including its controversial stop-and-frisk policies. The New York Civil Liberties Union has pointed out its concerns about stop-and-frisk policies, which include “racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights.” Activists who protest these policies often argue that the police racially profile the people they stop, but police are not just stopping all people of color, they are specifically stopping Latino and Black men. Although it’s clear that men are imprisoned at a higher rate than women, the gender disparity is rarely examined. I had never even noticed how the drastic the difference between police stopping men versus women was until I came to the University of Massachusetts, when the racial aspect became less apparent than the discrepancy in gender.

During my first weekend at the UMass, I witnessed more men get stopped by the police than in the last few years I have lived in New York City. That says a lot, because I’m from Washington Heights, an area that is predominantly Latino. My first weekend at school was a long weekend, so my newfound friends and I checked out the party scene on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Each night I was alarmed by the frequency with which we would come across a police car with its headlights shining into the faces of men with open containers. Some didn’t even have visible containers and instead, they carried backpacks with alcohol. I had never seen a white man get stopped by the police (unless he had jumped a turnstile), so I was surprised to see that race was not a factor in the stops, but gender definitely was.

Women also carry open containers on and around Fearing Street. In fact, everyone carries open containers on Fearing Street. According to the annual security report, 234 people were arrested for violating liquor laws in 2014. The numbers for crimes such as arson, burglary, theft and domestic violence put together aren’t anywhere near 234 arrests.

It is easy to get stuck on the street with a beer can. When a party is boring and a person leaves, it can take them some time to find somewhere new to go. They might not even think twice about the beer can in their hand, but if that person is a woman, they will probably get away with it.

Police can’t just ignore someone with a visible open container. I have seen a woman get called over to a police car, where she was told to put the bottle away and “get lost.” Down the street, two men were being ticketed. A friend of mine was caught by an officer smoking a joint. The officer asked if her parents knew what she was doing and then told her to “get lost.” However, we can’t be sure whether she wasn’t ticketed because police are more lenient on marijuana than alcohol, or if it was because she is a woman.

Witnessing this huge discrepancy between men and women getting arrested for a crime that many students commit brings up a lot of questions for me. Specifically, why aren’t women getting ticketed or arrested? Is it because men become more belligerent when they are under the influence than women do? Or is it because women are seen as less of a threat to the community? Do officers think they are protecting women by letting them walk the streets while they pick up the drunken men?

Personally, I think women aren’t seen as a threat to the community because they are generally considered to not be as belligerent as men when they are drunk. Although the rate of female incarceration has been rising at a higher rate than male incarceration, women only make up around 5 percent of the 2.2 million people in jail in the United States, even though women make up slightly more than half of the total national population. I doubt it’s because women are committing fewer crimes. We just are not taken nearly as seriously.

Sonali Chigurupati is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]