BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Last week, Queens DA Richard Brown delivered his year-end address, in which he highlighted his office’s four biggest prosecution victories of 2013 and touted Queens as one of the City’s leaders in crime reduction.
Brown, who will begin his 23rd year in office this week, noted that in the last two decades, overall crime in Queens is down by 77.7 percent, murders have fallen 78.1 percent, robberies are down 76.3 percent, burglaries are down 78.9 percent and felony assaults are down 40.9 percent.
“It’s something I’m particularly proud of,” Brown said in an interview with the Queens Tribune. “About 50 percent of my 300 assistants have been with me for more than 10 years, so there’s a great stability in our office.”
Brown, who took office in 1991, said that when he first became DA, his office saw 361 homicide cases. This year, his office reported only 65 homicide cases. Similarly, in 1991, his office reported 52,000 stolen cars, whereas this year, his office only saw about 2,000.
“We’ve seen about 72,000 arrest cases here in Queens and I’d like to think that we do them very respectfully and, as a result, Queens is a safer place to live and to visit,” he said. “I also give police officers a great deal of credit to the crime reduction. I think more than any other agency in the City or State government, the police here with us have been very, very helpful in crime reduction.”
Though he did note that violent crimes were down significantly, Brown did point out that Queens has been seeing more economic crimes, like identity theft. He attributes those spikes to the economic climate in the United States.
According to Brown, the four biggest victories of the year were People v. Urban Fermin and Darius Lowery, People v. Simon Watts, People v. Hikeem Green and Darcell Marshall and People v. Natasha Munchkin Marks.
In the first case, People v. Fermin and Lowery, both were sentenced to 30 to life in prison for going on a one-hour robbery spree that resulted in a high-speed chase and a shoot-out with cops in South Jamaica. The jury found the pair guilty for a number of charges, including first-degree attempted murder of a police officer, robbery, burglary, assault and grand larceny.
In the second case, People v. Watts, a 41-year-old Springfield Gardens teacher was convicted of molesting five of his students during the course of three years. The jury found him guilty of abusing four girls and one boy – while he taught them in the third and fourth grades at PS 15. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
In the third case, People v. Green and Marshall, a Rockland County couple was convicted of sex trafficking in connection with the prostitution of two young women – a 19-and-20-year-old. The pair was accused of taking the victims to a vacant St. Albans home, forcing the women to take drugs and work as prostitutes. Green was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and Marshall was sentenced up to three years.
In the last case, People v. Marks, a Flushing woman was sentenced to a term of one to three years for jumping bail shortly after pleading guilty to a hate crime statue, by stealing $850,000 from an 85-year-old Howard Beach man. Marks, dubbed the ‘sweetheart swindler,’ falsely told the elderly man that she needed the money for chemo treatments and a new business. She then fled to Oklahoma, where she stayed in hiding for nearly six years. The jumping bail prison sentence is to be served immediately following her two to six years in prison for the grand larceny charge.
As he begins his new term in office, Brown is hopeful that Queens will continue to be one of the City’s leaders in crime reduction – especially under the City’s new NYPD Commissioner, Billy Bratton.
“I believe that because of the talent we have here in my office, crime will continue to go down. I look forward to Commissioner Bratton’s arrival,” he said. “He is a professional I’ve worked with before and I have every reason to believe we will work very, very well with the police department.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.