The open-air sex trade has become commonplace in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. The New York Post reports prostitutes have been operating in plain sight for months in Brooklyn. It has become so brazen that the four-block stretch of Brooklyn where most of the women operate can have traffic jams comparable to rush hour, at midnight. The Post states, “when police ride through – in both marked and unmarked cars – business mostly carries on without interruption. While cruising down the block one night, a cop flashed the lights of their unmarked car in an apparent attempt at deterrence but took no other action.” They go on to say “authorities largely turn a blind eye to it all, amid a shift away from cracking down on prostitution.”
In February of this year, NYPD officers were told not to arrest people who “appear to be loitering for the purpose of prostitution” after the repeal of the “walking while trans” law. Officers told The Post there is no incentive to make arrests because the Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, was “moving away from prosecuting prostitution cases.” In January, Gonzalez moved to dismiss 262 prostitution cases dating back to 2012. In March, shortly after the law was repealed, Gonzalez asked a judge to dismiss 857 open prostitution cases between 1970 and 2011. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz dismissed at least 670 similar cases, and Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance reportedly dismissed around 5,000 loitering for prostitution cases.
NYPD insiders also told The Post that the shift away from prosecuting prostitution cases “has done more harm than good for the sex workers, with pimps now feeling emboldened to ply their trade in plain view.” One active-duty NYPD officer said, “they are only hurting the girls who are walking the strolls, because they are the real victims. A lot of girls are young and have pimps and are victims of human trafficking.” He went on to say, “ironically, the DAs are doing the pimps a favor.”
Statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services show that arrests in Brooklyn for loitering for the purpose of prostitution were 39 in 2018, 13 in 2019, and 0 in 2020 as the DA shifted away from prosecuting prostitution. Former sex-trafficking and special victims prosecutor in Brooklyn, Lauren Hersh, told The Post, “one of the best ways to help trafficked women was to target the demand” and “make sure those who are being exploited are getting the services they need, not criminal penalties, but it’s a real problem to give a free pass to these sex buyers who are fueling the market.”
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office stated to The Post, “We have a Sex Trafficking Unit that vigorously prosecutes pimps and traffickers while working with service providers to get assistance to victims of trafficking. We stand ready to engage with communities, advocates and the police to address any concerns involving prostitution.” Democrat City Councilwoman Inez Barron, whose district includes the tract, told The Post she didn’t know about it but vowed to have it shut down, saying “we certainly want to make sure we maintain those kinds of conditions that make it pleasant and safe for everyone in the city.”