Prosecutors Appeal To City Council For Support
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by the city’s other district attorneys and Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan, last week urged the city to restore previous cuts to prosecutors’ budgets and fund new initiatives.
In testimony before the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety, Brown said that “while we have been able to make significant strides in stabilizing the District Attorneys’ budgets and in restoring- at least to some degree-the devastating cuts suffered by each of our offices following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2011, we very much need your continued support to insure that we have the resources that we need to continue to rebuild and to fulfill our constitutional and statutory obligations-and to continue to improve the quality of the lives of the counties that we represent.”
In discussing the fiscal challenges facing his office, Brown said, “I think it is important to note that we still have a long road ahead of us as we begin the process of re-building. While we have received some restorations-and some new initiative funding-we are still about $2 million behind where we started in Fiscal 2002-or the equivalent of about 30 new full-time attorneys.”
Brown continued, “Secondly, a good portion of the new funding that we received was needed to address our continuing structural deficit in funding. This has been due to many factors, including the long term impact of the budget reductions that we have taken over the years; the loss of other available federal, state and local funding and grant streams; the re-deployment of existing resources away from our core case processing mission to new initiatives undertaken at the request of the city; and finally to rising OTPS (other than personal services) costs.”
The district attorney pointed out to the council that there were quite a few new and emerging crime trends for which the office needed funding support.
“For example, computer crimes programs to address the burgeoning problem of identity theft, credit card and telemarketing scams and, in particular, to focus on the tremendous growth in Internet-based sexual exploitation of children; youth antiviolence and crime prevention initiatives; gang activity; and the growing problem of financial exploitation crimes-particularly those targeting the elderly such as identity theft, credit card fraud, familial/caregiver thefts and ‘sweetheart’ swindles,” he said.
In conclusion, district attorney Brown told the Council, “For many years, more than half of my staff has been scattered in offices in the area of the Queens Courthouse, costing the city nearly $3 million a year in lease payments and contributing to a loss of work hours and productivity each time prosecutors must appear in court or attend meetings with senior staff. It doesn’t make fiscal sense- especially when sitting adjacent to my office, literally just a wall away, is the shuttered ten-storied Queens House of Detention, which has been vacant for a dozen years. By renovating the House of Detention into usable office space for my staff, the cost-benefit of such a consolidation would mean an elimination of our lease payments and the reduction of duplicate overhead costs, as well as an increase in staff productivity and the added savings of the city not having to pay to maintain an empty building.”