I write this message at a time when, as a city and as a nation, we face unprecedented challenges. The importance of how we respond at this critical moment cannot be overstated.
As Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, I am deeply committed to protecting the safety of our residents and ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair for all. Decades of experience have taught us that we can overcome difficulties and best serve New Yorkers when we work together. The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) was established over 50 years ago on that principle.
New Yorkers are strong and resilient. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is much work ahead. Our sense of safety has been undermined by high rates of crime and economic instability. The opioid epidemic is claiming record numbers of lives, with someone fatally overdosing in the city every three hours. There were a staggering 2,688 fatal overdoses here in 2021, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Our office’s mission is to save lives through targeted prosecutions aimed at cutting off the supply of lethal narcotics, preventing drug related violence, and providing support and treatment for substance users and other individuals as appropriate. SNP was a pioneer in offering treatment as an alternative to incarceration more than 35 years ago. Beginning in 2020, SNP expanded its alternative disposition programs through ATI Court, which reaches individuals not eligible for pre-existing programs.
By focusing enforcement efforts on high-level narcotics traffickers who use New York City as a regional hub of drug distribution, our investigations result in the seizing hundreds of pounds of deadly fentanyl, heroin and cocaine before it ever reaches the streets. With greater frequency, we see narcotics organizations armed with high-powered weapons and handguns. These are a priority for prosecution. We also respond to calls for assistance from communities beset by street-level drug networks, and organizations linked to overdose deaths and violence.
We have heard the calls for greater equity in criminal justice, heightened by the police killing of George Floyd. An ongoing review of our practices has resulted in the implementation of changes to address systemic inequities and injustice. We are resolute in our commitment to ensure that defendants and victims are treated fairly, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or nation of origin.
Our strategic approach promotes community safety and saves lives, while lowering arrests.