Giving People Hope: Track Record & Vision
1. Making low-level first offenses civil, not criminal:
In 2016 the New York City Council passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, a series of laws that were passed to counter the growing number of criminal summonses that were issued for petty crimes such as open containers, trespassing in parks after hours, littering and loitering. These summonses would often result in arrest warrants for missed court dates or even a permanent criminal record. Councilman Vincent Gentile was a supporter of these laws and voted in support for their passage. This attempt to give first time low level nonviolent offenders a chance to keep their record clean and avoid career work problems later in life is one way Vincent has worked to give people hope. That’s the type of hope Vincent Gentile will continue to give Brooklynites as District Attorney.
2. Expand Community Based Sanctions
Community Based Sanctions applies an alternative sentencing approach to criminal cases involving non-violent behavior. By equipping judges and prosecutors with an increased array of sentencing options, Community Based Solutions seeks to impose a positive alternative sentence rather than a short-term incarceration stay. Properly run community based sanctions in the Bronx, for example, has reduced the misdemeanor jail population by 30%. It’s time we work on that in Brooklyn. Vincent has voted in support for a variety of community based sanctions in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s past budgets, and believes he can do far more in this area as District Attorney.
As District Attorney, Vincent would:
- Lead a coalition to gain additional support and funding for Community Based Sanctions
- Expand the use of positive alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders to help address jail overcrowding
- Increase the use of local community courts
- Expand the use of treatment centers and new treatment into sentencing
- Expand the use of work based community service as a sentence for nonviolent crimes
- Direct into appropriate programs deferred prosecution of drug-addicted and mentally ill defendants
3. Right to Know Act
Councilmember Vincent Gentile knows that interactions between police and the public can at times be tense. Yet he knows that “CPR”- Civility, professionalism and respect is always the best policy. Therefore Vincent supports the legislative package known as the “Right to Know Act” to promote and mandate civility in police and public interactions. The Right to Know Act includes legislation that requires an open and transparent procedure be followed in every interaction and ensures certain rights are protected in warrantless searches. As District Attorney, Vincent would advocate for this bill until it became law.
4. Community based outreach
Prior to Ken Thompson, the Brooklyn DA’s office had a checkered past that often times neglected to inspire the people of Brooklyn and give them the hope they deserve. As District Attorney, Vincent Gentile believes we need to take a different more thoughtful approach to the DA’s office, and empower it to become a vehicle of hope. This means using the power of the office to build stronger relationships with the community, providing economic advancement and bringing new programs and employment to Brooklyn, and becoming more involved in encouraging youth engagement and diversion from the criminal justice system.
As District Attorney, Vincent would:
- Be a promoter of new business and employment opportunities to come to areas of Brooklyn that most need it
- Make better use of the District Attorney’s Office of Public Engagement
- Take a more active role in the Department of Education’s Back on Track program
Vincent Gentile: Continuing Thompson’s Legacy
1. Fortify the Conviction Review Unit
Like the late District Attorney Ken Thompson, Vincent knows that the worst rap against a District Attorney’s office is to wrongfully convict innocent people and send them to prison. Because Vincent got his District Attorney training in Queens, he like Ken Thompson can attack the problem of the wrongfully convicted in Brooklyn without fear or favor, having no ties to the Brooklyn DA’s office of the past
Introduced in 2015, the Conviction Review Unit combed through hundreds of criminal cases ultimately identifying and reversing the convictions of 21 innocent individuals. The Conviction Review Unit was one of Ken Thompson’s signature achievements that has helped our community undo the injustices of the past. As a former Assistant District Attorney, Vincent believes that a false conviction is an egregious error that destroys the lives of those affected
As District Attorney, Vincent would continue Ken Thompson’s legacy by:
- Continuing and expanding the necessary case review and resources for the Conviction Review Unit
- Employing internal policies to mitigate a “prosecute-first at all costs” mentality.
- Uncover wrongful convictions without fear or favor
2. Enhance the Begin Again Program
In Brooklyn, there are over 250,000 open warrants, accumulating at an increasing rate every year. In response Ken Thompson created the Begin Again program that helps more than a quarter-million Brooklyn residents erase outstanding warrants or minor offenses. With Begin Again in place, residents with outstanding warrants have the ability to surrender to a Begin Again center, and take the opportunity to resolve a majority of open warrants. Ken Thompson rightly argued that this program would allow police officers to pursue more serious crime and limit Brooklyn’s rate of incarceration. And at a time when the mayor, elected officials, community activists, faith-based leaders, and residents are working to improve police-community relations, this program helps establish trust with communities across Brooklyn
As District Attorney Vincent would continue Ken Thompson’s legacy by:
- Building out a robust calendar for Begin Again events.
- Working with community leaders to take ownership of the program, and help drive its success.
3. Tough on Guns and stronger prosecution of gun traffickers
Ken Thompson spent a vast amount of the DA’s resources to target gun rings in Brooklyn and gun traffickers that bring out of state firearms to Brooklyn. Thompson spoke publicly about the need to pursue arms dealers, but also of the need for state and federal laws that criminalize gun traffickers. As a legislator he has been a supporter and has lobbied with groups like NYers Against Gun Violence. As District Attorney he will use that platform to push for the federal ban on automatic weapons. Pursuing arms dealers is only part of the problem; there is also a need for state and federal laws that criminalize gun traffickers As District Attorney, Vincent Gentile will give as much time, attention and resources to fighting gun trafficking as he will to major illegal narcotics busts.
A New Way for a Better, Safer Brooklyn
1. Launch “Employment Drives” to create opportunity and divert youngsters from the criminal justice system
Vincent believes that the office of District Attorney is a powerful platform by which to encourage and promote businesses to create and offer employment in key areas of the borough. Moreover, as DA, Vincent will support and encourage programs that train and promote employment skills for Brooklynites. In these ways, the DA can contribute to creating positive career pathways for many and can divert them from criminal behavior and ultimately away from prison.
2. REORGANIZE THE ELDER ABUSE UNIT AND CREATE THE ELDER FRAUD PREVENTION AND ABUSE BUREAU
The Elder Abuse Unit was created by Ken Thompson to investigate cases of spousal or parental abuse involving adults over 60 years old. Although the Elder Abuse Unit prioritizes acts or threats of physical violence to seniors, Vincent Gentile believes it has too limited of a scope and is ultimately underfunded.
As District Attorney, Vincent Gentile would broaden the scope of the Elder Abuse Unit by:
- Reorganizing the unit into the Elder Fraud Prevention and Abuse Bureau
- Focus on financial crimes and scams as well as abuse against seniors
- Expand the jurisdiction of the unit to educate and protect seniors from financial crimes
- Gather a broad-based databank of seniors with email address to send alerts to seniors regarding nearby criminal activity and fraud alerts to warn seniors of latest fraud attempts that are targeting them. Connect with senior centers throughout Brooklyn to reach those without emails.
3. Advocate for Bail Reform
As District Attorney and former state legislator, Vincent would be in a prime strategic position to advocate for bail reform legislation. Specifically judges setting bail should be permitted by law to weigh the threat a defendant poses to the public as a factor in setting bail. At the same time, Vincent Gentile supports efforts to provide judges the financial status of a defendant when setting bail and to use that information to better evaluate the setting of bail and its amount.
4. Create the Major Case Narcotics Investigations Bureau
The best way to reduce and keep narcotics out of our neighborhoods is to intercept the drugs before they hit the streets of Brooklyn. The way to accomplish this is through the creation of the Major Case Narcotics Investigation Bureau that will do high level large-scale investigations into the narcotics trafficking in the borough.
5. Focus more resources on stemming human trafficking
Another kind of trafficking Vincent will target is the human trafficking happening primarily among young families in the nail, body spa, and sex trade industries. Many of these women are victims and must be seen as such. The DA’s job is to help them and uncover, prosecute and purge the profit purveyors of this crime.