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DA candidate tells South Ozone Park church crowd he can bring down alarming crime rate across borough

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Retired judge George Grasso explained why he’s running for Queens district attorney to an audience at a South Ozone Park church. (Courtesy of Grasso’s campaign)

When Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD brass announced that shootings were down across the city by 17% in 2022, and murders dropped 12% as compared to 2021, former Judge George Grasso took a hard look at the CompStat figures in Queens and sounded the alarm about the numbers he was seeing.

The Douglaston resident noted that index crimes in Patrol Borough Queens North had increased by more than 44% while robbery is up more than 50% across the borough.

Grasso broke the numbers down to the precinct level and found a 100% increase in murder at the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst and Corona. He said that robbery in the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill was up more than 65% over 2021, and in Bayside, Little Neck and Douglaston, robbery is up 186% compared to 2021.

Courtesy of Grasso’s campaign

Grasso, who retired as administrative judge at Queens Supreme Court, criminal term, in August to challenge Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz in June’s Democratic primary, put the blame for the “politically driven crime wave” on the criminal justice reform bill signed in 2019 by former Governor Andrew Cuomo, legislation he said was crafted by progressive legislators who were influenced by public defenders and advocates and not judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

Before he was appointed to the bench by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Grasso spent more than three decades in the NYPD, where he began as a beat cop in the 113th Precinct while attending night classes at St. John’s University School of Law. He steadily rose through the ranks to become first deputy commissioner in 2002 where he remained until 2010 when he joined the judiciary.

“I love the law. I love the practice of law. I love working and feeling I’m doing something meaningful in the criminal justice system,” Grasso said during a speech at the Church of the Nazarene in South Ozone Park on Jan. 8.

But he stepped down from the bench with nearly 2 1/2 years remaining in his term to run for DA and work to reverse what he called ill-conceived bail and discovery laws and vowed to fight for a dangerousness standard, giving greater judicial authority to set bail on repeat offenders, those who fail to come to court, and those who pose a risk to the community.

“Why did I walk away? Because we have problems again and you’re not feeling safe,” Grasso said.

He described his time as a captain in the mid-’90s when Bill Bratton was appointed NYPD commissioner.

“Bratton came in with Jack Maple, who grew up not far from here in Richmond Hill, and they said we’re going to turn the city around block by block,” Grasso recalled. “They got me in as part of the leadership team and their plan worked. It was amazing.”

He said he would bring his 43 years of experience in the criminal justice system to the DA’s office to make Queens more secure.

“I genuinely believe I can change things and I have the courage to try,” Grasso concluded. “I believe New York City’s recovery begins here in Queens.”

Meanwhile, ahead of Tuesday’s January periodic campaign financial disclosure, Katz announced that she’s raised $600,321 in the last six months from 284 contributors and that she has $1,175,665 on hand as her re-election year kicks off. 

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz (QNS file photo)

“I am so honored and humbled by the broad base of support that’s represented in this filing,” Katz said. “My entire career led me to this position and the support I’ve received for re-election is a strong signal that the office is heading in the right direction.”

Katz was elected District Attorney in 2019 and inaugurated in 2020, taking office in the most turbulent of times as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the borough. Since then, Katz led the effort to take illegal and ghost guns off the streets and held human traffickers and domestic abusers accountable, and she launched Queens’ first-ever Conviction Integrity Unit to ensure justice for those wrongfully convicted while she adopted a community-first approach to public safety, according to her campaign.

“This filing is just the start of our campaign where I will highlight the work that the office is doing – to take illegal guns off the streets, to hold human traffickers and domestic abusers accountable, and to build a criminal justice system that prioritizes public safety, justice, and fairness for all – because our office shows that you can have safety in the streets and fairness in the courtroom,” Katz said.

Grasso raised over $314,000 from more than 600 donors in the last three months.

“I’m extremely grateful for the extraordinary support of our grassroots effort which has set up the Grasso for Queens campaign on the right track,” he said. “New Yorkers are fed up with rampant increases in crime and heard my message about how to achieve real public safety with strong leadership in the District Attorney’s office. With continued success like this, there is no doubt that change is coming.”

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