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Proposed city, state $ cuts risk to low crime rate: DA

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown warned officials during a city council hearing last Thursday that proposed city and state budget cuts would increase crime rates in the borough and inhibit prosecutors’ ability to process a large amount of arrests.

Brown, joined by the four other district attorneys from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan, testified in front of the Committee on Public Safety during a hearing on proposed cuts to district attorneys offices. Brown said the planned 9.5 percent reduction to his office, added to budget cuts initiated during the past year and a half, would amount to a total decrease of 21 percent, or $7 million, in overall funding since December 2001.

“Like so many others our office faces a simultaneous city, state and federal budget crisis of huge dimensions and I would be less than candid if I did not tell you that I am very fearful that crime will rise if public safety budgets are further reduced,” Brown said.

“Indeed, as a result of the budget cuts that we have suffered to date, I believe that we are dangerously close to the point where our ability to maintain the gains of the last decade reducing crime is in jeopardy. We cannot afford any further cuts.”

The district attorney said his office took a 2.5 percent cut in December 2001 and two separate budget cuts totaling 10.75 percent for this and next year’s budgets. Now, he said, the city Office of Management and Budget is aiming to slash a further 9.5 percent from funds for the Queens district attorney’s office.

Brown said the sharp decrease in funding breaks with traditional city and state practices that have linked the Police Department’s budget to the district attorney’s. He said the New York Police Department has only been slated to cut 1.3 percent of its budget compared with the 21 percent prosecutors could face in upcoming budgets.

All this could potentially raise the level of crime in the borough and prevent the district attorney’s office from handling a large number of cases, he said. The state is planning a 15 percent cut in assistance funds to district attorneys, which would amount to an additional loss of $328,000, Brown said.

Brown has already had to impose a hiring freeze in the Queens district attorney’s office and has tried to reduce office costs in hopes of limiting the cuts’ effects on crime rates, he said.

The 5.6 percent reduction in the number of violent crimes in Queens during 2002 could slowly turn around if adequate resources are not supplied to his office, he said.

“It is essential that we not be forced to compromise the enormous progress we have made in reducing crime,” Brown said. “I urge you to do your utmost to ensure that we can continue to provide the people of this city with the level of prosecutorial services that they deserve — and that will help keep them safe and secure.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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