Manhattan’s new DA, Alvin Bragg, marks the beginning of his new office by advocating for the decriminalization of various crimes as newly sworn-in Mayor Eric Adams seeks to combat rising crime in NYC.
Bragg, who was sworn in on January 1 to replace the outgoing Cyrus Vance, sent a statement to his office staff calling for the “decriminalization” of offenses such as marijuana possession, trespassing, resisting arrest, and prostitution, among others.
The memo justifies the request based on Bragg’s personal experiences and his search for “safety and fairness.” The new prosecutor believes that incarceration should be a punitive measure for “significant harm.”
“This memo sets out charging, bail, plea, and sentencing policies that will advance both goals,” the document reads. “Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer.”
Bragg’s letter proposes “key principles” such as reducing pretrial incarceration, seeking alternatives to prison time and shifting the focus away from sentence length.
Under those premises, the prosecution will not investigate minor traffic violations, driving without a license or obstruction of government functions, and will reduce the maximum prison sentence to 20 years for all crimes that do not have an option for life in prison.
Thus, Bragg’s office “will not seek a carceral sentence other than for homicide” or “class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury, domestic violence felonies, sex offenses” with some exceptions in extraordinary circumstances.
Reassessment of offenses worries police
The NYC PBA, in the voice of its president Patrick J. Lynch, issued a statement rejecting the measure and expressing “serious concerns.”
“We continue to have serious concerns about the message these types of policies send to both police officers and criminals on the street,” the PBA said on Twitter. “Police officers don’t want to be sent out to enforce laws that the district attorneys won’t prosecute. And there are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences.”
On the other hand, Mayor Adam said Tuesday that he had not communicated with Bragg or discussed the contents of the memo.