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Criminal Justice

NYPD Shuts Down Its ‘Demographics Unit’

New York City police have shut down a controversial unit that sent plainclothes detectives into Muslim communities without specific cause and secretly designated several mosques “terrorism enterprises,” effectively allowing police to investigate anyone who prayed there. The unit, formed after the 9/11 attacks, sent informants with secret microphones to record sermons and collected license plates of people parked outside, automatically monitoring their movements around the city.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

Although the unit is now defunct, it remains unclear how many of its controversial practices may be continued in other forms. The Times reports that “the Police Department appears to be moving its policies closer to those of the F.B.I. Both agencies are allowed to use census data, public information and government data to create detailed maps of ethnic communities.”

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