Queens DA requests dismissal of hundreds of prostitution cases; mayor calls for decriminalization of sex workers

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QUEENS — Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz appeared in court Tuesday to request the dismissal hundreds of prostitution-related cases across the borough.

Katz requested Tuesday that Queens Acting Supreme Court Justice Toko Serita dismiss nearly 700 cases were people were detained, arrested and charged with loitering for the purpose of prostitution and prostitution-related charges.

The request comes following last month’s vote to repeal penal law 240.37, a statute that punished people based on their gender and appearance.

Many of those who were penalized were people victimized and forced into the sex trade industry, according to the district attorney. 

“Instead of prosecuting these defendants, we need to provide a helping hand by connecting them with meaningful services, support options and the necessary tools that will assist them to safely exit the sex trade if that is what they choose to do,” she said in a statement. 

As Katz called for the dismissal of cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced measures the city plans to take as they call on the state to decriminalize sex workers and support survivors of domestic violence. 

The mayor made the announcement as part of the city’s police reform and “recovery for all of us” plan.

“We need to help them. We need to end the criminalization of sex workers and put all the focus on those who subjugate them,” the mayor said, highlighting the focus on supporting and protecting those put in the situation.

The city plans to advance supportive community-based services for sex workers, formalize a task force on the health and safety need of sex workers and review NYPD policies and procedures for identifying and investigating human trafficking to find alternative methods, according to Mayor de Blasio.

Not only does the city call for decriminalizing sex work, Mayor de Blasio also wants to take a different approach to domestic and gender-based violence.

With a goal of reducing violence and reducing law enforcement involvement with victims, the city will conduct reviews to support survivors and identify services that require engagement with the criminal justice system as well as expand resource services, including counseling and benefits assistance for victims. 

Members of the NYPD and the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) will also undergo mandated training to help them better support survivors.

“We want to give survivors access to the help they need, and oftentimes it’s best to do that separately from any involvement that they may have seeking justice support,” the mayor said. 

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