DA Vance Testimony on Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2013 Preliminary Budget

March 14, 2012

We appreciate the opportunity to address the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2013 Preliminary Budget and highlight the important work of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Support for District Attorneys Offices must be maintained if we are to effectively support the City’s efforts to enhance public safety.  Every day we are remind that despite our remarkable progress in driving down crime in NYC, it is a constant, and it is ever-changing.  All of you are familiar with the challenges this presents – in Manhattan alone we are confronted with more than 100,000 arrests per year. The cases are as diverse as our City, from rape and murder to terrorism and complex financial crime. That final category has resulted in more than just significant prison sentences for the worst offenders – resolution of several major financial cases has resulted in more than $450 million for the City and State since 2010.

There are two areas of our work I would like to briefly address with you today: cybercrime and crime prevention. The first is the fastest-growing area of crime we see today, and the other is, to me, our most important mission.

As technology has changed the way crimes can be committed, we must respond by transforming the methods we use to investigate cases. The internet serves as an instrument for a vast array of crimes including identity theft, destruction of vital information, trafficking child pornography, bullying, harassment, and stalking. I have said many times that the internet is the crime scene of the 21st Century – and believe me, the criminals using the World Wide Web are not genteel geeks gone wild, they are sophisticated and in many cases violent criminals who have moved from the streets to their computers.

Our Cybercrime and Identity Theft bureau now provides supervision and expertise in as many as 400 new identity theft cases per month. They are handled by 70 designated ADAs within our Trial Division, who receive special training and handle these cases in addition to their regular duties. We also track these cases and find important links among them, which can be an invaluable tool in discerning criminal patterns and typologies, and in identifying criminal organizations that would otherwise go undetected. Our Cybercrime and Identity Theft Assistant District Attorneys use a cutting-edge computer forensics lab to conduct intensive, long-term investigations and prosecutions of criminal organizations. These include malware, hacking and intrusion investigations, as well as sophisticated cyber-frauds.

As in all areas of crime, prevention is key. We are working with the business community to safeguard customer information, and we regularly out in the community educating New Yorkers on how to prevent themselves from being victimized on line. Some of you also may know that last month myself and members of my staff  participated in Respect For All Week by giving presentations at 12 schools in Manhattan to inform youth about detecting and preventing cyber-bullying.

You all know why crime prevention is paramount – a crime prevented is worth far more than a crime prosecuted.
In 2010, we created the Crime Strategies Unit (“CSU”) and assigned to it the responsibility of using technology and law enforcement and community collaboration to devise strategies to reduce crime. Over the past year, our Office, using information provided in part by CSU, dismantled several dangerous gangs operating in Manhattan, which were trafficking in drugs and guns, and recruiting children and teenagers into their criminal activity.
We understand, though, that aggressive prosecution is only one part of a comprehensive strategy to reducing violence. Crime prevention efforts must be and are a key part of those strategies as well. After removing criminals off the street, we are working with community members to help rebuild those neighborhoods.

For example, our Office, working with the Police Athletic League, the NYPD, Pro Hoops Inc. and various community-based organizations, has established basketball training camps, known as “Friday & Saturday Night Lights”, at three locations in Manhattan (West Harlem, East Harlem and the Lower East Side). My Office, along with the DEA, funds this program through money seized in our anti-drug cases.  These camps are open on Friday and Saturday nights at gyms that previously were closed to the community. Currently, about 500 youths participate in these camps and we are looking to expand this initiative into other sports, such as baseball and volleyball, with the goal of providing an alternative to the streets for a broad spectrum of our youth.

Additionally, last August, in conjunction with Speaker Christine Quinn, Council Members Robert Jackson and Inez Dickens, and the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, we launched a new summer internship program for New York students between ages 12-16. This unique opportunity gave youth an exciting opportunity to get off the streets and use their summer vacation to continue learning and giving back to the community.

We also intend to continue to advocate and assist in the implementation of programs aimed at decreasing the number of guns available to unregistered buyers. In October 2011, our office collaborated with the NYPD and various community leaders in Harlem on a gun buyback program. This coordinated effort took nearly 140 guns off the streets, including more than 80 revolvers and 40 semi-automatic pistols. Every gun we take off the streets means increased safety for us all.