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Spray-painted atop an old tenement building in the East Village of Manhattan is a large fossilized graffiti image of a tyrannosaurus rex that reads: “NYC EATS ITS YOUNG.” With its ribs exposed and mouth open, this image represents symbolically what many young people in the neighborhood already know intimately and have experienced: New York City (NYC) is not an easy place to grow up. Their social safety nets are being dismantled and the public institutions they rely on every day often fail them. In NYC, public school budgets are being slashed each year even though the high school dropout/push-out rates are far too high. Neighborhoods are fast becoming gentrified as the ever-rising cost of rent makes it increasingly difficult for the working class and poor to raise families anywhere in the city. A truly comprehensive health system in the United States is still only a future hope, while countless NYC young people are without adequate healthcare; the logic of the welfare state is forever being attacked. And then there is the mounting police presence. It is this public institution--The New York City Police Department (NYPD), its aggressive policing policies, and how these policies are related to youth experience--that we will take up here. In this article, we will explore what it is like to grow up policed in NYC.


This article was originally published in New York Law School Law Review, Volume 56, Number 4, 2011/12, available at



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