On Tuesday, District Attorney Melinda Katz asked to dismiss nearly 700 cases in which people were charged “with loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution and prostitution-related crimes.”
The Queens attorney said in a release that she had asked the Court to dismiss 146 cases of defendants with outstanding warrants on open cases charging alongside 443 cases of defendants with outstanding warrants on pending cases.
Last month, the “vague” loitering law, termed the “walking while trans ban” by critics, was repealed following long-held concerns that it far too often targeted women, trans people and people of colour based solely on their appearance.
Historical data shows that enforcement of this statute had primarily been used to arrest people based on their gender or appearance,” Ms Katz, a Democrat, said in a press release.
Last week, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced that a judge had granted her office’s motion to dismiss more than 800 cases that involved the anti-loitering law, the Associated Press reported.
Ms Katz’s request for the dismissals came on the same day that New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced a push to decriminalise sex workers and support victims of human trafficking in the city.
New reforms proposed as part of a “New York City Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative draft plan” would see the city develop new strategies to combat trafficking while working to eliminate arrests for sex workers.
“It’s time to decriminalize sex workers and focus our enforcement on those who exploit and profit off a broken system,” Mr de Blasio said in a release.
“We are calling on the State to end criminal penalties for sex workers and help us reach those in need without requiring involvement with the criminal justice system.”
The proposal outlines how the city would seek to expand services for sex workers by exploring pre-arrest programme models which offer community-centered services to sex workers without conducting arrest as a condition of receipt.
“People in the sex trades have long been marginalised, stigmatised, and criminalised in ways that are unhelpful at best and violent at worst,” said Ashe McGovern, Executive Director of the NYC Unity Project.
They added: “We are eager for the opportunity to work across the Administration and citywide with our community partners to support a Task Force that centers and prioritizes the lived experiences of sex workers and begins with the core and fundamental presumption that all people in the sex trades deserve respect, autonomy, and dignity—at work, in their daily lives, and when seeking out city services and support.”
Mr de Blasio’s new proposal stipulates that the New York Police Department will also be required to “review policies and procedures” surrounding human trafficking to focus on arresting traffickers without further criminalising sex workers.
“We applaud the Mayor – and especially the Black, brown and trans activists who have been working tirelessly for years to decriminalize sex work – for announcing this proposal,” said Zil Goldstein, associate director of medicine for transgender and nonbinary health at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
“The best way to support the health and wellness of sex workers is by protecting them from harassment and unjust incarceration.”