SOUTHERN BROOKLYN – Going forward, those arrested with small amounts of illegal drugs – small enough to qualify as a misdemeanor – may be offered to be enrolled in a drug treatment program, under Project CLEAR (Collaborative Legal Engagement Assistance Response) that is being piloted in Southern Brooklyn. If the individual meaningfully participates, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office will decline prosecution of their case before it ever appears in court, and seal their arrest record, Brooklyn DA Gonzalez announced today.
This project is being piloted in six police precincts in areas of Brooklyn that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic – 60th Precinct (Coney Island), 61st Precinct (Sheepshead Bay), 62nd Precinct (Bensonhurst, Gravesend), 68th Precinct (Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge), 71st Precinct (Prospect -Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights) and 72nd Precinct (Sunset Park). Based on last year’s record, the city expects about 700 individuals could benefit during the pilot.
About a third of Brooklyn overdose deaths in 2017 took place in these six precincts – that’s 84 out of 251 total in Brooklyn, based on preliminary NYPD data, and almost 60% of the lives saved using naloxone nasal spray last year (189 out of 333) were also in these precincts.
“Drug addiction has destroyed the lives of too many New Yorkers and their families. Instead of punishing those struggling with addiction, we must help put them on the path to recovery”, Speaker Johnson said. “With the establishment of CLEAR, the City will address drug addiction, like the opioid epidemic, as a public health crisis and offer treatment to those suffering from substance abuse, instead of criminal prosecution. This Council is proud to stand with the District Attorney and the NYPD, and we thank them for working with us in taking steps to make the criminal justice system more fair.”
“Often, prosecuting individuals who are arrested with small amounts of narcotics, used to feed their habits, does little to help them,” Gonzalez said. “By offering tools that aid in treating their addiction and could prevent a potential overdose, Project Brooklyn CLEAR can save lives.”
Health Commissioner Bassett praised DA Gonzalez for changing their approach to enforcing drug possession laws, saying that “the CLEAR program will help New Yorkers who need health services get care instead of punishment.”
Council Members @MarkTreyger718 @JustinBrannan @DRichards13 & @CMMathieuEugene join @BrooklynDA to announce Brookyln CLEAR: a new approach to handling arrests of those dependent on opioids & other drugs, providing the opportunity 4 treatment & services instead of going to court. pic.twitter.com/lxNnXCR9wI
— NYC Council (@NYCCouncil) March 6, 2018
Council Members Treyger, Brannan and Eugene, whose districts are most affected all praised the initiative.
“It’s time we step in and look for long term solutions to our drug and opioid crisis in our neighborhoods. Instead of incarceration and a criminal record, this will be a meaningful step in helping those with substance abuse. A similar program is working in Staten Island and I expect it will be a success here in Brooklyn as well, ” Council Member Justin Brannan, who is also advocating for mandating education about opioids in schools, said.
Council Member Mathieu Eugene added that “Project Brooklyn CLEAR is a critical step in the city’s ability to rehabilitate low level drug offenders. We have a moral responsibility to help those whose lives have been impacted by the ravages of drug abuse.”
“CLEAR is an innovative, synergetic approach to solving the problem of substance misuse, which increasingly threatens the health and well-being of New Yorkers. I commend District Attorney Gonzalez, Commissioner O’Neill, and Speaker Johnson for prioritizing treatment and preventative measures rather than punishment, helping encourage recovery, end drug dependency and save lives,” Council Member Treyger summed up the general sentiment.