2016-02-10 / Front Page

Historic Decline in Crime

Joining Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown (at podium) at his 24th Annual Legislative Breakfast are (l. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, Assemblyman Andrew D. Hevesi, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Councilman Rory Lancman, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer. Joining Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown (at podium) at his 24th Annual Legislative Breakfast are (l. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblyman Jeffrion L. Aubry, Assemblyman Andrew D. Hevesi, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Councilman Rory Lancman, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown briefed city, state and federal elected officials of Queens County at the District Attorney’s annual legislative breakfast held at his Kew Gardens offices on the morning of Friday, February 5. The public safety briefing highlighted key accomplishments and major initiatives undertaken over the past year.

District Attorney Brown said, “Last year was another eventful and exciting year for us. It was a year in which we were once again among the city’s leaders in crime reduction – and it was a year in which we, as prosecutors, contributed greatly to the city’s historic decline in serious crime.”

According to New York City Police Department statistics, Queens County led the city in 2015 in reducing crime in three major categories – murder, burglary and auto theft. Overall, Queens County saw serious crime drop 6 percent as opposed to 2 percent citywide.

District Attorney Brown said, “We had only 60 homicides last year – a far cry from the 361 homicides that we had in 1991 – my first year as district attorney.”

“In 2015, we handled over 67,000 arrest cases. And once again, we had the best arrest-to-arraignment time in the city. We also had the highest violent felony conviction rate in the city,” Brown noted.

One of the contributing factors in helping this office excel at fighting crime is the dramatic advancement in technology, the district attorney said. “Using the latest technology enables the office to get involved as quickly as possible with someone from my staff at the scene of crimes regardless of the hour, at police precincts, hospitals and sometimes in the homes of crime victims,” Brown explained. “We are completely computerized,” he added. “We are linked together by a modern voicemail, text messaging and mobile phone systems and our NYPD Command Center keeps us apprised of everything and anything that is happening in Queens County at all hours of the day and night.”

The District Attorney added that last year the office drafted more than 1,200 search warrants and that the office continues to be a national leader in the number of court-authorized wiretaps it conducts. Last year, the office coordinated about 5 percent of all the non-federal wiretaps throughout the entire country.

District Attorney Brown further said that Queens continues to lead the city in many significant categories, such as:

 Having the highest domestic violence conviction rate in the city and the lowest dismissal rate. The office takes more pre-indictment domestic violence pleas than the rest of the city combined.

 Having assistant district attorneys present at police precincts during lineups. Last year our assistants supervised nearly 350 lineups at precincts throughout Queens County. The office is the only one in the city to have prosecutors present at every lineup.

 The dismantling of prolific auto theft rings that have resulted in a dramatic decrease in auto crimes. In 1991 Queens County had 52,000 cars reported stolen. Last year that number was down to less than 2,300.

In pursuing the office’s mission to increase public safety and reduce crime in 2015, Brown said that the office was relentless in prosecuting illegal online gambling enterprises, violent gun and drug gangs, prostitution and sex trafficking rings, criminal operations that focused on identity theft, mortgage and insurance fraud, credit card fraud, trademark counterfeiting, as well as legitimate businesses that skimmed tax revenue to cheat the government out of millions of dollars.

In addition, the office continues its aggressive pursuit of on-line child pornographers and sexual predators who troll the internet in an attempt to meet underage children for sexual relations.

“We have a first-class Child Advocacy Center – with a resident pediatrician – here on Queens Boulevard that handles all of our child abuse cases,” said Brown. “And the Family Justice Center assists victims of domestic violence along with their families.”

The District Attorney also noted several new initiatives launched in 2015, including an Animal Cruelty Prosecution Unit, a Mock Trial Competition for local law students, a successful academic conference on Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome, and weekend hours for the Queens Child Advocacy Center to enhance its ability to service children and families.

Last year, the District Attorney’s office also established the Office of Immigrant Affairs to help the nearly 50 percent of Queens residents born abroad navigate the criminal justice system. The goal is to make sure that all those who live in Queens know how to get help if they are victimized and to assist community members and groups with questions, concerns or complaints and direct them to the appropriate bureaus and divisions within the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

DA Brown noted that, “We have a full-time Director of Alternative Sentencing and a broad array of alternative sentencing programs here in Queens. For example, we have both a felony and a misdemeanor Drug Treatment Court, a DWI Treatment Court, a Mental Health Court – and courts that respond to the needs of our youthful offenders, as well as our returning veterans.”

The District Attorney emphasized that, “We are as much about turning lives around – particularly young lives – as we are about putting the bad guys in jail. We have a host of prevention, education and outreach programs.”

“The Special Prosecutions Unit of my office is a staple at precinct council and community board meetings and frequently provides speakers for schools, community groups and town hall meetings,” noted Brown.

In addition to staying attuned with the latest technology, the district attorney’s office is dedicated to staying current with respect to legal issues that it may encounter on any given day. The office offers a variety of continuing legal education programs for the assistants.

“We have a full-time director of training and our assistants receive intensive and repeated instruction throughout their careers,” said Brown.

In conclusion, District Attorney Brown said, “We are an office of professionals committed to the highest level of professionalism. We are an office that I believe is among the best in the state – indeed the best in the country. We have the respect of our law enforcement colleagues and the confidence of the 2.3 million residents of Queens County, whom we represent.”

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