After pot decriminalization, arrest rate drops in Philly

 Philadelphia Police Headquarters (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Headquarters (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Police Department is reporting a significant drop in the number of arrests for the first half of this year.

Part of the drop is due to a city law passed late last year that decriminalizes marijuana possession.

Last year, more than 34,000 Philadelphians were arrested on charges of everything from violent crimes to violating curfews.

About 8 percent — or nearly 3,000 — of all those arrested were charged with possessing marijuana.

So far in 2015, police have arrested just about 400 suspects on pot-related charges.

“So instead of arresting, as of the end of October last year, the bill was passed and we started the process of issuing the process of issuing citations for those small amounts of marijuana,” said Police Lt. John Stanford.

It’s a response to decriminalization legislation that Jim Kenney, likely the next mayor of the city, sponsored while in City Council. Under the law, anyone caught with fewer than 30 grams of pot can be fined $25; anyone caught smoking marijuana faces a $100 fine.

The decrease in arrests also coincides with a new initiative that puts minors who’ve been caught in school for small offenses into special programs, Stanford said.

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