There are more than 17,500 gang members in New York City, the NYPD says, but it still has not said what mechanism, if any, is in place to remove someone from its database.
That's according to the Legal Aid Society, which plans to sue the city after getting from the NYPD documents from two PowerPoint presentations and other internal paperwork that it said don't address the core concerns first raised by the group when it filed a Freedom of Information Law request late last year.
"What the department did was include was every section of the Patrol Guide you can think of,'' said Anthony Posada,(cq) of Legal Aid's Community Justice Unit. "That wasn't news to us. We still feel far too many people are listed in the database because of how they dress, or if they have tattoos, or if they know someone with a criminal record.
"And we still don't know anything about how they go about purging names from the database."
The NYPD Wednesday still wouldn't answer that question.
The hot-button issue has taken on added urgency recently, with concerns that being in the database could result in deportation, given the federal government's aggressive posture towards illegal immigrants since President Trump took office.
Earlier this month, a Manhattan federal judge ordered the release of an undocumented 16-year-old Honduran suspected of being a MS-13 member in Suffolk County. Judge John Keenan disagreed with the assertion that the teen, identified in court documents as EHE, could be dangerous, and noted that it was wrong to consider him a "likely" gang member based on what he was wearing.
The NYPD, to be sure, does not cooperate with federal authorities who ask police to detain a prisoner -- unless the person in question has committed one of 170 listed felonies and the feds have a warrant.
But Posada and other advocates said that hasn't stopped Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents from themselves busting suspected gang members, regardless of the validity of the classification and sometimes despite the lack of recent contact with police.
The FOIL response to Legal Aid includes current gang and crew data, according to the NYPD.
There are currently "approximately 17,571 members," according to the documents provided Legal Aid.
The Bloods are most represented among gangs and crews, at 27%, according to what the NYPD gave Legal Aid, followed by the rival Crips, at 13%, and the Latin Kings at 9%.
MS-13, predominant on Long Island, has one "clique" in the city, in Jamaica, and represents 2% of gang members. The remaining 49% include a mix of other gangs and crews, some noted by ethnicity, such as 11% Mexican.
The FOIL response doesn't say how many names are in its gang database. Previous FOIL requests suggest there are at least 25,000 though and advocates have said that based on previous police data that number could be upwards of 40,000, including thousands of people who haven't had contact with police in years.
Legal Aid in recent weeks has also encouraged those suspected of being a database to use its website to file a FOIL request that the group will send to the NYPD. One community organizer who made such a request got a shocking response in return.
Almost 300 people have filed, Posada said, with about 95% of them told such information is "exempt from disclosure." About 40 of those who have appealed the decision later learned they are not in a database.