© Nina Berman, from the series Homeland

Often the problems associated with large institutions is that they muster their own internal logic. Kathie Arseno’s account below describes a series of ridiculous actions, for which no single person in authority would surely want to take responsibility.

This account was sent to me by Nina Berman, with whom I spoke about Stop & Frisk. Astoundingly, Arseno’s account shows that the NYPD’s invasive policing commonly seen on the streets (Stop & Frisk) extends to the harassment of people in their homes (Arseno).

So, if you’re in NYC and are free in the morning head down to Bronx Criminal Court.

Dear Friends,

On September 3, 2011 I was arrested in the lower east side (Manhattan) for graffiti.  I made a plea.  I had to pay a fine of $145 and one day community service.  Manhattan criminal court lowered my charges from graffiti to disorderly conduct. I have not done graffiti since my first arrest.

I do not have the approximate date but late in January I was arrested a second time. It was around 10pm and I was sleeping in my home.  My son was with me. I get woken up by loud banging on the door. I wake up to four male officers at my door. I did open the door but just enough for them to see my face. Officer Pomrade stepped his foot into my apartment and I told him he is not allowed to do that, I did not invite him in and they did not have a warrant for my arrest. The officer became very aggressive and his supervisor told him to calm down. One officer was calling the precinct to see if I have any warrants. At this point I did let them into my home because I felt they were definitely not going to leave me alone. And the more I resisted they became visibly more agitated with me. The officer found out that I did have a bench warrant. My arresting officer said this automatically gives them the grounds to arrest me. They told me that I am being arrested for the graffiti I have done around the Bronx. I informed them that I have already been arrested and charged for graffiti in Manhattan. They said I am now being arrested and charged for the graffiti I have done in the Bronx prior to my first arrest. I began to cry because I was about to get arrested and my son was in the home.  They let me call his father so he can be picked up. His father was on his way after I called.

When I got off the phone the officers asked me to come in the next day after work to the precinct so we can straighten everything out. They did not want to disrupt my family or my work. This will allow me to make arrangements to make sure my son was taken care of. I walked into the precinct the next day and was handcuffed as soon as I entered. I asked if this is going to happen anytime someone sees my tag. They said since my name and tags are in the system I can be charged for the graffiti I have done in that particular area. The officer told me not to worry, that I should not get arrested again as long as I stop doing graffiti.

I met with Vandal Squad police officers Zimmerman, Dwyer, and Ogilus.  They said that I am not an artist they want to make an example out of.  They were pressing me for information on other graffiti writers. They also charged me and stated that from now on I shouldn’t be arrested anymore unless I am caught red handed in the streets. They said in the rare case the police come to my home again to give them a call and they will help the situation. I was arrested on Wednesday early in the afternoon and did not see the judge until 8pm Friday night. I missed too many days of work. My next scheduled court date was for April 25, 2012.

On March 31, 2012 as I was soaking in the bath and baking cupcakes with a friend for a party I was going to have that evening, at approximately 9PM my son runs into the bathroom to tell me the police are at the door. I quickly jump out the bathtub and put only a t-shirt and basketball shorts. I step out my home to speak to the officers. My arresting officer asked if I was Kathie Arseno and when I responded yes he grabbed my wrist and stated to me that I am being arrested. In handcuffs I asked if they had a warrant and they did not answer. I asked why I was being arrested and he said “You know why you are being arrested.”  Once in the precinct I was told the reason for my arrest. I was once again getting arrested for graffiti in the neighborhood.  I became very upset and started protesting. I asked that they call Officer Zimmerman from Vandal Squad and to let me call my lawyer.  I was never allowed to make a phone call.  The officer was going to release me.  I was having a conversation with another officer and he became highly upset stating that I think I can fool him. He threatened to have my son removed from me and actually called 911 and told them a crazy woman is having a breakdown when I refused to get up from my seat to walk into my jail cell.  I asked for water but they refused to bring me any. I was interrogated for about an hour by a female police officer who was pressing me to share information on other writers if I want to be let out. I remained silent and they sent me to central bookings around 6am Sunday morning.

I was seen by the judge early afternoon on Sunday. My lawyer claimed double jeopardy and my case was dismissed without any charges.

On April 25, 2012 I went to court and the sentences they were trying to give me ranged from 5 to 90 days in jail with probation and community service.  I did not accept any of the offers and my court date was adjourned for July 25, 2012.  It still boggles me that I was caught red handed in Manhattan and was not charged with a crime but the Bronx has no evidence against me other than my prior arrest in Manhattan and I am facing these harsh sentences.

On May 18, 2012 around 10:15PM I had two police officers from the 44th precinct come to my apartment and try to arrest me for graffiti, again. I asked if they had a search warrant or a warrant for my arrest. They did not have any warrants so I did not agree to accompany them to the precinct. They told me I have two options, I can either voluntary go to their precinct or they will make a report to vandal squad and they will come to my home at anytime. I told them I will get in contact with my lawyer. And they left. I quickly emailed and left a message with my lawyer who advised me to remain silent at all times because they cannot keep arresting me for the same crime. She said she will get in contact with the A/DA assigned to my case to advise police officers to quit arresting me for the same crime. I have not had an officer come to my home since then.

On July 25, 2012 is my next court case at 9:30am. I am asking you to come to Bronx Criminal Court and show some support.  My life has never been the same since my second arrest. Having officers come to my home three times to arrest you for the same crime has disrupted my family’s life completely. I even had to take a week off work after my last arrest because I could not sit through a  meeting at work without breaking down in tears because of all the harassment and verbal abuse I had experienced. I literally had all my rights taken away from me in seconds. One minute I am home with my son and the next I am in a jail cell for a crime I already paid for. I know for a fact I am not the only one dealing with this type of harassment and I think its important for our community to make a stand and let them know that this is unacceptable.

Please forward this to any people or organizations who will like to show support.

Peace and Love, Kathie Arseno