Sep 18, 2023
Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez on what it means to be a ‘progressive prosecutor’
After a pandemic-era spike in violence, 'Brooklyn is safer than it's been in a long time,' the DA says on the podcast
It’s probably safe to bet that most people don’t know who their district attorney is, unless they’re a lawyer — or frequently in trouble with the law. In Brooklyn, Eric Gonzalez made history in November of 2017 when he became the first Latino district attorney elected in New York State. And with the promise to helm “the most progressive DA’s office in the country,” he didn’t stop making history there.
In his role as DA, Eric Gonzalez is working to redefine the role of a prosecutor, he says. In his first term, Gonzalez ceased trying low-level pot offenses. He also dismissed 90 drug convictions tainted by a corrupt police detective, and he demanded changes to state bail reform laws.
By the start of his second term early last year, shootings were on an uptick in the borough, though, and so were criticisms from the right. He’s worked to meet both of those challenges head on. Today Brooklyn is statistically the safest it’s been since its pre-pandemic best (even though it might not always feel that way). A pandemic-era surge in gun violence has been brought down in large part thanks to strategies that almost would’ve been inconceivable in this city in prior years: Gonzalez has supported early release in most parole proceedings, the resolution of cases without jail time and the dismissal of tens of thousands of low-level summonses in court. His office has been behind gun buyback programs and intensive diversion and mentorship programs to address drivers of crime early on.
“Many of the decisions that I’ve undertaken as district attorney, some of them novel and some of them controversial, are all things that largely have been well supported by the people of Brooklyn,” he says on this week’s episode of “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.”
Raised in East Williamsburg in East New York, Gonzalez earned his degree at the University of Michigan Law School. He started working at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office in 1995 where he has been ever since, gradually rising through the ranks. He lives less than a mile from where he grew up, with his wife and three sons, in Williamsburg. On the podcast this week he joins us to talk about all of the above, plus why he chose prosecution over defense, given where he grew up and his surroundings. We discuss his track record on safety, on guns, his relationship with the NYPD and more.
The following is a transcript of our conversation, which airs as an episode of “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast,” edited for clarity and, to a lesser extent, concision. Listen in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.
A district attorney’s job is by definition to represent the people of the state of New York in bringing charges against a suspect in the court of law. I’m guessing that literal definition is maybe not how you see the gig. You are a self-described “progressive DA.” Define what that means to you.
In general, it means that I look at our justice system as a place where cases come in and whether or not the system as currently constituted really works for all the people of this city, in particular, people of Brooklyn. I grew up in a different time. I was a kid in the ‘90s when crime rates were really high. I think you may know this, but I also grew up in East New York in Brooklyn, which is among the poorest parts of the city and has the most gun violence.
It had the highest homicide rate in the city when you were living there.
The “murder capital of New York City.” Those tragedies touched my life, losing friends and family members to gun violence. So my definition of what a “progressive prosecutor” is meant to do is really to balance the system to work for everyone. The way things used to work did not work for people who were low-income and people who lived in high-crime neighborhoods. These were cases where folks really did not have confidence that law enforcement had their best interest in heart. And so what we’ve tried to do in Brooklyn under my leadership is to make sure that every decision we make centers public safety.
But we understand in this office, in real deep ways — and a lot of my executives share this background — that in order for people to feel safe, they have to feel invested in the system. They have to feel that the system actually really cares about their lives in meaningful ways and not just simply prosecuting cases. I think I’m a reformer. I don’t shy away from the term progressive prosecutor, although I think different people have different understandings of what that means.
How do you define progressive?
Progressive in my mind is a person who’s mindful that the system did not work for many. That mass incarceration, over criminalization, and biased police tactics were things that cause people to distrust the justice system and to avoid it. And by avoiding it and not willing to participate or come to court or serve on juries, in fact led to more criminalization.
For someone who has witnessed these inequities in the system firsthand — witnessed over policing, seen you friends arrested — why become a prosecutor and not a defense attorney? Why be the guy who is prosecuting people as opposed to supposedly protecting them?
That’s a great question and something that I struggled with in my life and in my legal studies: Where should I use my talents and my skills in the courtroom? And it became fairly clear to me as a young person that we all want to be safe. And the lack of my own personal safety and the experiences of friends and family being victims to significant crime always allowed me to understand that we want public safety and that prosecutors are a part of that public safety — a net and fabric.
The issue is, who’s making the decisions that really matter in communities that are significantly dealing with public safety issues? Who makes the decision about who gets a second chance? Who makes the decision about whether or not someone’s going to be asked for bail and someone’s going to be held pretrial and plea bargainings and what the charges should be? And it became clear to me that the prosecutors had the most leverage and most power to effectuate justice and fairness.
Do you have any aspirations down the line to be a judge, sit at the bench, maybe way down the line?
Judges play a crucial role in the system, but they decide individual cases one at a time and often after the boundaries of the case have been set, what the charges are, what the evidence is. People who look at the legal system recognize that prosecutors really are the gatekeepers of this justice system and play such a crucial role. So while being a judge is very distinguished — although obviously what’s happening in the United States Supreme Court and other places have sort of shaken people’s confidence in judges — I do think that generally people think that judges are fair and well guarded. Yet for me, being at the forefront and sort of at the critical role of a prosecutor, not just bringing charges but also dealing with police accountability issues in the criminal justice system, is where my heart’s at.
Especially as DA, you have an ability to set broader policy that affects more people in more cases?
In my career as a prosecutor, I know that tens of thousands of Brooklynites, the decisions I’ve made over a 25-year career, whether or not they got a second chance or they got a criminal record or we found a disposition that would not lead to deportation. There’re a lot of things in the day-to-day workings of young prosecutors that really impact all New Yorkers. I charge my prosecutors in this office to think carefully about public safety, think carefully about the needs of survivors and victims of crime, think about what’s in the best interest of the defendant, because ultimately to me, accountability also includes trying to prevent them from committing more crime and what’s in the best interest of community. In East New York as a child, and even I also spent some time in Williamsburg before it was hip.
Before it was hip. You and the borough president were both there before it was cool.
Actually we lived two blocks from each other. In those communities the sense of inequity in our justice system has really caused people to become detached from the system. And so for me as district attorney, making sure that our community has agency in what’s happening in our system is important. Many of the decisions that I’ve undertaken as district attorney, some of them novel and some of them controversial, are all things that largely have been well supported by the people of Brooklyn.
You’ve been walking the line between addressing inequities in the system, but you’re also facing demands, in some of those very same communities where there are inequities, where a constituency wants a more tough-on-crime approach. How do you walk the line between people who would like to see more policing and then people who feel like there’s over policing?
I don’t think there’s as big of a divide as many people believe on this issue. There’s clearly a movement in real super progressive circles to reduce policing, eliminate policing in some cases. There was this movement that many people wanted to talk about rebalancing the budget of police department to provide other services.
“Defunding” the police.
Yeah, the defunding moniker as such, but I think that’s a political term as opposed to right-sizing the budget appropriately. For the people who live in communities, I believe that really the call is for fairness. They want to be policed in the same manner that other communities are policed. And we saw that around marijuana very clearly. We saw that 93 percent of the people arrested in Brooklyn for marijuana use year after year, and prosecuted by this district attorney’s office were Black and brown people, Latino mostly. From our life experiences, we know that people of all races and ages and socioeconomic [levels] use, as we call it now, cannabis.
And those are the kinds of things that undermine public trust in our justice system when people are treated differently. So in terms of safety, communities that are asking for policing want to make sure that they’re as safe as they can be, but they also want fairness. And I think that’s what motivated me very directly to choose this profession. I believe that people who grew up in neighborhoods, like me, needed to be in the decision making seats of this criminal justice system.
Well, let’s talk a little bit about safety. The latest stat that I’ve seen, and you may have something more recent, this is probably from around May: shootings across the city down 26 percent this year compared with last with murder declining by 11 percent. Some of the same precincts today as 30, 40 years ago still have the highest level of shootings, but walk us through that decline in shootings.
Just as you said, the same neighborhoods year after year, which are neighborhoods that are under-resourced and among the poorest in our community — East New York, Brownsville — still lead Brooklyn and lead the city in shooting and gun violence. Gun violence is a symptom of inequities in our city. Getting guns off the streets is among my top priority because the more guns that we have on the streets, the more they’ll be used. And so a lot of different efforts on my office’s part to get guns off the street. From doing trafficking cases and doing investigations to locate ghost guns and the people who are building those guns — really complex investigations to get ghost guns off the streets — to prosecuting people who have illegal guns. But then voluntary programs like gun buybacks and initiatives with young people to steer them away from guns. These guns are a problem for us in low-income communities where gun violence is prevalent.
But that being said, Brooklyn is going through a renaissance. And I think it’s with the same strategy that I promised the people of Brooklyn I would execute six years ago, focusing in on the drivers of violence and not over policing, but really focusing in on those people who are the most dangerous. And the New York City police office, police department, our community members, our stakeholders, they can tell you who are the dangerous people in the neighborhood. We focus on those cases and those people, and what we’ve seen in Brooklyn, with the exception of 2020. Now 2020 was terrible, and it really was among the worst that I’ve ever experienced in 25-plus years as a prosecutor.
In 2019, the year before that was one of the best, right? That’s how dramatic the spike was.
Yeah, 2018 and 2019 were record lows for us in shooting violence and homicides. Then Covid pandemic hit and we saw this tremendous spike. The good news for the people of Brooklyn — and this is really good news for all New Yorkers — shooting violence has really been stamped down, it’s been receding, it’s slowing down. I have a theory on that. I believe that as we stop individual shootings, we also prevent retaliatory shootings, especially among young men and gang-involved men who tend to not call the police when someone is shot, but to pick up a gun …
Deal with it their own way.
I call it the peace dividend. As we stop every individual shooting, there’s one less shooting because there’s one less retaliatory shooting, and these things build on each other. But I’m going to get right to it, this is the safest summer that Brooklyn has had in the past five years. So not only are we beating last year by over 30 percent, we’re safer this year in gun violence by over 30 percent than last year. This is the safest summer that we’ve had in the last five years. We beat 2018 and 2019 numbers in terms of gun violence. Homicides are down, and so this peace dividend is a real thing, we have to keep it going.
We have to make sure that we provide as many disincentives for young people to pick up guns and hurt each other. We’re going to do that with the carrot and the stick. The carrot, we have programs that are running in different parts in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in East New York and Brownsville, where we’re engaging these young people and putting them through restorative processes to see if we can engage them in meaningful ways so that they don’t pick up a gun. And we give them hope that their lives matter to us and to each other. And when they do commit acts of violence, we’re going to be very harsh in the criminal justice response and prosecute cases fully.
Those numbers on safety are great news, or at least on gun violence. But —
It’s not just gun violence. Reported rapes are down by 4 percent. Robberies are down 8.5 percent, burglaries down 15 percent, grand larceny is down 6 percent year to date. We’re making progress across the board, but the gun violence and hate crimes, which are also down significantly in Brooklyn, those are the things that shake the foundation of safety.
I did read a stat, so correct me if I’m wrong though, that when you do lump all these so-called major crime index crimes together, rape, robbery, felony, assault, burglary, you’re saying they’re down. Grant theft auto. I read that the major crime index rose in Brooklyn by 20 percent last year.
What people are referring to is from what they were in 2018 and 2019, that those are the numbers. That our index crimes are up from those numbers. They’re actually down year to date. This year it’s down a little bit over 5 percent from last year, and last year it was down from the year before, but compared to 2018 and 2019, index crimes are up. But mostly driven in two categories that people don’t really talk about, driven tremendously by grand larceny auto, which I think over the last several years is up nearly 170 percent. We’ve heard about that with the Kia Challenge and other things where people are stealing cars.
They’re also stealing catalytic converters. Someone tried to get mine.
And burglaries went up during the pandemic years as well. When someone goes into the building, into the lobby, which may not be locked and steals a package that comes in as a burglary. So that’s a new type of crime that didn’t exist 10 years ago because we didn’t have as much Amazon delivery as we have today. But the reality of it is that the violent crime has been going down, but index crimes are up from 2018 to 2019, but really down year after year since 2020.
OK, got it. So safety has improved. Crimes across the board are improving, and yet there is this disconnect in the public perception. But New Yorkers are worried about crime ahead of the 2024 elections. It doesn’t feel like people have an accurate sense of the problem. I read an interesting poll recently that Americans, not just New Yorkers, Americans think New York is more dangerous than New Orleans, even though New Orleans has a murder rate that’s 12 times higher this year. Some of that, and we can get into the mayor’s public prognosticating, is because of the messaging from the top. But there is a disconnect between how safe New York and Brooklyn are now versus how it’s perceived. Basically, you have a PR problem. What’s the thinking there?
Brooklyn is a municipality of many distinct neighborhoods, and I talk to Brooklynites all the time, and they often tell me that they feel fairly safe in their own neighborhoods. They feel less safe when they’re on the trains or they go into other neighborhoods or they travel into Manhattan. There’s a sense of fear that crime is random, and if you’re on the subway or other places, it’s less safe. But I think Brooklynites, even those who live in tough neighborhoods, feel more safe today at home in Brooklyn than they feel in other parts of the city.
What we came out of in the post-pandemic 2020 year was a real surge in crime, and I think people felt that very clearly. It takes a period of time for people to sort of see things have changed. So the reality as district attorney is I can point to the numbers, I can really have these conversations to show why Brooklyn is safer than it’s been in a long time. But the work has to happen locally. And I think that each community has to organize because there are different issues in every community. Some parts of Brooklyn, they have a tremendous issue with different types of crime.
I was mentioning the mayor earlier. In 2022, the NYPD announced a so-called quality of life enforcement initiative. Since then, the number of criminal summonses issued by the NYPD for public drinking, urination, excessive noise, littering — basically, it feels like the broken windows policy — all of these infractions have skyrocketed. Arrests are up, incarceration is up. This seems to be at odds with your approach to prosecution.
Quality of life is key to the progress in our city, the safety of our city and what we want for our neighborhoods. It’s how we respond to it that differs, and these quality of life crimes are something that have to be addressed. We know that some of them are simply minor inconveniences for New Yorkers, and how we deal with them needs to be dealt in a certain way, but we have to be honest with ourselves. And some of these quality of life issues really impact safety.
To tell a New Yorker whose child is going to school that drug use across the street from their school on the corner of their school isn’t something that the police department is going to take seriously anymore, or the prosecutor’s not going to take seriously, is a mistake. It’s just how we respond to substance use disorder and the biggest issue that no one has resolved for our city. And I’m not sure that anyone really has a good answer, is how do you respond to mental health issues? Because time after time we’re making progress, and then we have someone who’s clearly in some kind of psychotic mental health break who commits this terrible crime. It seems random, and it shakes us to our core. But this issue of public quality of life concerns we have to take seriously.
One of the things that I hear about right now are all of these cars who are driving super aggressively on our streets. That’s a quality of life concern, but one that does have a public safety issue. And just yesterday, a 77-year-old woman was killed and while she was walking with a 2-year-old granddaughter. So aggressive driving is a concern, and there’s a lot of quality of life concerns surrounding car culture and aggressive driving, and we can go on and on.
I’ve got a list, yeah.
There are solutions. And so the question is, does it always have to be the police? I’ve taken the position early on in my tenure. In 2016, I talked about co-led public safety and using violence interrupters. I think some of that can be utilized in a lot of these ways. Noise complaints, drug use, using RCMS workers to have a different response. Because when the police are there, there’s only two responses, “Do what I’m telling you to do or you’re going to get arrested.” And I think with some of our violence interrupters, there’s different solutions.
So how is your relationship with the police? In 2019, your office released a list of officers whose credibility had been undermined through discredited testimony, workplace infractions. As part of his blueprint to end gun violence, one of Eric Adams’ items was for the five borough DAs, including yourself, to meet weekly with the police commissioner. How has that relationship been for you?
So we have a brand new police commissioner, and I’m optimistic that he’s going to come to the table with the prosecutors. I took a position that was unpopular in 2016. I may have been the first DA ever running for New York City to challenge the stop-and-frisk policies because I didn’t think they led to safety. I actually thought they were very harmful to public safety because of the reaction we were getting from our jurors and from our constituents when we were calling them to come in and testify. That being said, I think that the police department has come a long way from, I would say, where they were during stop-and-frisk. I think they’re more mindful that they have to work closely with the community.
I’ll never apologize for doing the right thing. And I’ve overturned more than 500 cases now where we’ve learned subsequently that a police officer has either lied or perjured themselves on cases. We have to have confidence that our justice system is going to do the right thing and not rely on testimony that’s inherently unreliable. And had a juror known this or a judge known this at the time, they would never have credited that testimony. I think vacating those convictions was the right thing to do. After I’ve done it, I’ve seen fellow prosecutors in New York City do the same. That’s what New Yorkers want. We want to make sure that our justice system is never responsible for convicting a person wrongfully.
There’s so much that your purview covers. We’re not obviously going to be able to get to it all, and certainly not in any minutia. But whether it’s from the proliferation of not-quite-legal weed bodegas to safety on the roads, as you were mentioning — I’m a cyclist and motorized vehicles in the bike lane are the bane of my existence — investigating allegations of forgeries and favoritism in the borough’s Democratic Party, bail reform. And we don’t have time to get into each of these, but start with, I guess your favorite of that list. Or I think something that’s interesting to our listeners is maybe the unlicensed recreational marijuana bodegas. There seems to be no major political will to crack down on those.
I have a lot of concern currently, and I think it’s a hot topic right now with these illegal cannabis shops. My predecessor, Ken Thompson, in 2014 had me write a policy about what non-prosecution of marijuana would look like, and we started that policy under his leadership. In 2014, we started to decline to prosecute simple possession of marijuana because of some of the racial disparities we talked about. Because of the high cost that these prosecutions had on our system, they were a gateway to further criminalization, meaning that about 40 percent of the people who were arrested for marijuana, this was their first contact with the system.
So marijuana is a gateway drug. It’s just not the gateway that we were told it was.
But it had real harmful impacts on people’s lives. It’s still a federal crime that could lead to deportation, and people still get deported for marijuana convictions, old marijuana convictions. This policy was a policy that I then amplified after I became DA to include smoking. To put some context to it, in the bad years of stop-and-frisk, there were over 15,000 Brooklynites arrested for marijuana in those years. And in subsequent years, it had dropped maybe to five or 6,000, but still a tremendous cost on human lives. And we in the county decided that we could do something else with enforcement other than drag people through the justice system. So I stopped prosecuting those cases and something remarkable happened, crime continued to go down. For a long time, I think law enforcement had suggested that if we didn’t prosecute marijuana, that crime would increase.
Shortly after I made that announcement, we went from thousands of arrests for marijuana to fewer than 100 a year, and those tended to be cases where there was tremendous amounts of marijuana, people moving 100 pounds of weed at the time. So it had the desired impact, and it allowed the state to get to the point where they thought cannabis could be legalized. They looked at Brooklyn, Manhattan followed suit, stopped prosecuting cases, and we got to a place where legalization was possible. These cannabis shops today, however, that are illegal are jeopardizing the way that it’s been envisioned to have legalization for a lot of reasons. They’re bad actors. They’re in places where legal cannabis shops would never be allowed. They would’ve never been allowed to get there in the first place. They’re often selling to minors. None of us support the use of recreational marijuana for young people and for minors.
It’s going to deprive a legitimate industry from happening. We have to take these concerns very seriously. I don’t think that criminalization of the shops is the way to go. I think we need to shut them down through civil actions, nuisance abatement. We have to seize their illegal cannabis and make it not profitable for them. And now with the new fine system, they can be fined $10,000 every time they’re found, and then if they’re a repeat offender, they could be fined $20,000 and then their places can be padlocked.
Until the legislature and the government can figure out how to get a cannabis bill that’s going to pass the muster of some of the legal challenges around it, or the courts resolve it favorably, we’re really in a difficult place where it’s legal to smoke and possess marijuana, but illegal to sell it. And that’s going to drive the black market. And that was unfortunately, a predictable outcome from the slow rollout of this new law.
We could probably do a whole episode on the mess that the Brooklyn Democratic Party has gotten itself into. I don’t know if you care to give us, for the listener who may not know, a sort of 411 about what is going on there.
I can’t say too much because there have been cases referred to my office. What I would say more generically is that there are cases during this period of time where people try to get on the ballot and they need to petition. We see that there are names put on the petitions for both Democrats and Republicans. It actually happens on both sides of the political divide that are challenged. When they’re challenged, there’s often testimonial evidence that the person says they never signed it or the person may have been deceased. And so it seems to be a fraudulent signature.
Those cases get referred usually to the judge who’s overseeing whether or not someone has sufficed to be put on the ballot. And then they get sent to the Board of Elections. And referrals are made to different prosecutors offices, the DA, sometimes the federal authorities to see whether or not these are isolated incidents or there’s a pattern of fraud. And why I say isolated incidents is that when people are out petitioning, no one gets a driver’s license or has to produce an ID. So you never know if someone who’s signing the ballot is legitimate or they’re not legitimate. But there are times when you can see patterns of fraud. We take those allegations very seriously. And as you mentioned, there are a couple of investigations that have been referred to my office and some of the other prosecutorial agencies in the state.
You still live close to where you grew up. Can you shout out where do you go hang out? You have a day off, you don’t have to prosecute anyone. Where do you go to breakfast, lunch, dinner. Where do you hang out?
Listen, I’m a Brooklyn kid. I may actually be guilty of Brooklyn xenophobia, which [means] I don’t go into Manhattan unless it’s work. I love Brooklyn.
I love the people. I love the vibe. I love all things Brooklyn. I grew up in East New York in Williamsburg. Williamsburg is hip, and when I’m hanging out, I’ll be in some of the restaurants and places in Williamsburg. East New York still has a lot of public safety challenges, but I’m comfortable there, that’s where my neighbors are. When I grew up, I saw a lot of friends go to jail. A lot of them are home. They’re super proud of me that I’m in this position that I am in now. But my favorite part of Brooklyn — and that’s probably because I went to high school nearby; I went to high school in Gravesend in Brooklyn — but I love Coney Island. I have three young boys, you can find me in Coney Island with my kids, Luna Park, the amphitheater, the beach, enjoying that culture. And that Brooklyn is, I think, what probably old Brooklyn was like in the ‘50s and ’60s in some ways.
Anything else you’d want to add before we wrap up?
Much of the work around progressive prosecution is the understanding that we’re trying to do is make sure that this person is held accountable and doesn’t hurt someone else again. When you incarcerate people for things that don’t need them to be incarcerated, we think that it doesn’t keep community safe for long because they come back to the community.
Ninety-five percent come right back to where they were arrested from. They come back worse. And so I think that the issues around keeping our community safe is having strategies that are meant to prevent recidivism and prevent people from continuing the life that they live. Especially with young people. And this is crucial. Use the arrest as a lifeline to get them centered back to a place where we would want them to be. If someone is dealing with anger issues, use that arrest to get them therapy and anger management as opposed to just putting them on probation and wishing for the best. But really using proactive steps to improve the quality of life of that person. Make sure that person doesn’t hurt another person again. And if we do that, we’re going to improve our communities and be safer and healthier.
We all know this, that when we go to some of the safest communities in Brooklyn, there’s not a military presence of police officers, but the neighborhoods that have the most mental health issues and the most poverty, that’s where there’s the largest concentration of policing. And what we need to do, and what I’ve tried to do as DA is when a young person is arrested to get them resources, give them a second chance, and if they mess up, then we’ll deal with them. But the sense that we have to incarcerate people every time they get arrested doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
It doesn’t address the root problems. If it’s a mental health issue, you need to intervene, and you’ve done all of that with mentorship programs, and it’s to your credit.
The only other thing I’d like to say, my team would kill me here if I didn’t mention it. We did something remarkable in Brooklyn. I made a commitment to fight gender-based violence in this county.
I’m glad you brought that up because I wanted to ask. That has been a big issue. Go ahead.
We made a real commitment of resources to protect women in particular from gender-based violence, and that falls into big bucket. It’s domestic violence, it’s sex crimes, it’s human trafficking, it’s family violence. We used to handle that in a very siloed way, different parts of the office handle different cases. What we realized is that these cases have a lot in common. They need to be handled with trauma-informed care. Whether it’s domestic violence or sex crimes or trafficking of people, it’s people in power taking advantage of people who have less power or are vulnerable.
So we’re not calling it “special victims,” we’re calling it “gender-based violence.” And I’ve committed one in five prosecutors in this office will work on gender-based violence. They won’t have to make tough decisions about, “Am I prosecuting a robbery or a burglary or a shooting over a case of domestic violence.” These ADAs and support staff that work with them will work on these cases every day. Statistically, and I think we all know this but it’s jarring, women are at more danger in their homes than they are out in the streets of Brooklyn.
Does that program and its purview also include trans women, which is a highly at-risk community?
We’ve seen a lot of violence against trans women, especially Black trans women. Those cases are often handled in our special victims domestic violence place. But in terms of that anti-trans violence, we have a dedicated hate crimes bureau in our office. We never had one before I was DA. It’s a designated bureau where there’s seven prosecutors in that unit that every day work on hate crimes issues, and a lot of the transgender violence cases go to those prosecutors who are committed to making sure that they can walk through our borough and our city without being targets.
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