By Christina Carrega
In his annual end-of-year review, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown credited his office’s policies for the record low rates of violent crimes in Queens, including the lowest number of murders since 1965.
The review, released the same morning that Brown announced he would not seek re-election for a position he has held since 1991, also includes highlights from his 27-year tenure. Brown took office amid an era of pervasive violence, fueled by a crack epidemic.
“This was another extremely successful year for the Queens District Attorney’s Office,” Brown said. “This last year, there were 63 murders. This is a dramatic change from just over 25 years ago when I became the district attorney. In 1992, there were 341 murders.”
According to preliminary statistical data provided by the NYPD, overall crime in Queens has decreased by 82.5 percent over the past twenty-five years.
Since 1993, murders have fallen by 77.6 percent and burglaries are down 89.2 percent, robberies are down 85.2 percent, grand larcenies are down 51.1 percent, rapes are down 30.8 percent, felony assaults are down 42.3 percent, and auto thefts are down an astounding 96.3 percent.
“The citizens of Queens County are safer in their homes, on the streets of our neighborhoods and in our community parks, businesses and entertainment venues because fewer people are being killed, injured and maimed by senseless violence,” Brown said.
Though violent crimes have dropped, crimes related to the opioid epidemic have increased, prompting the DA’s office to address the crisis through the Queens Treatment Intervention Program (QTIP), Brown said. QTIP is an option for defendants with substance abuse issues charged with misdemeanor non-violent offenses. The program provides clinical assessment, treatment options and case management to help people achieve sobriety.
To date, not a single person who participated in QTIP has received any jail time, Brown said.
Brown also pointed to several other innovations he oversaw over the past 27 years, including the Special Prosecutions Division that works to steer young people away from trouble and put them on a path of success by running a host of crime prevention, school-based and community outreach programs.
In addition to those achievements, the District Attorney’s office summarized several “successful prosecutions and investigations,” ranging from high-profile murder convictions to the conviction of a woman with mental illness who was charged with animal cruelty for hoarding animals.
Despite the comprehensive review, criminal justice reform organizations pushed back against many of Brown’s policies in conversations with the Eagle.
“The policies and practices of the Queens District Attorney office have long been out of step with progressive criminal legal system reforms and have been key drivers of mass incarceration and criminalization in Queens,” said Nick Encalada-Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director, VOCAL-NY.
Encalada-Malinowski told the Eagle that Brown’s administration fails to protect immigrants from ICE custody, does not hold NYPD officers accountable for perjury or brutality, undermines due process through “coercive waiver policies,” advocates to keep Rikers Island open and continues to “aggressively prosecute low-level charges like marijuana possession and fare evasion or overseeing a legal system with dramatic racial disparities.”
On Jan. 21, Encalada-Malinowski and representatives from 19 other organizations will announce the formation of a coalition called the Queens for DA Accountability Coalition during a rally outside of the Kew Gardens courthouse.
“It’s time for change in Queens,” Encalada-Malinkowski said.
Three candidates have formally announced their bid to replace Brown. Councilmember Rory Lancman, former Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz all announced their candidacy in 2018.
On Wednesday, candidate questionnaires compiled by the Queens branch Democratic Socialists of America revealed that at least three others plan to run.
The additional candidates include public defender Tiffany Caban, state Attorney General’s Office Jose Nieves prosecutor and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas.