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DA’s Letter to the Community

Jan. 13, 2023 --

Dear Westchester County,

I am honored to ring in the start of my third year as your District Attorney by reflecting on the work we did in 2022, and looking ahead to this year as we continue building on our achievements since I took office. When I was sworn in two years ago, I committed to the guiding principles of safety, accountability, integrity and justice as Westchester County’s chief law enforcement officer. The primary goal of the District Attorney’s Office is to maintain public safety and support victims of crime. These fundamental pillars can, and must, work in tandem with the pursuit of a fair and equitable justice system that works for everyone, not just a few.

I’m proud to share with you how we have worked to achieve this balance by highlighting some notable milestones from the past year.

Prosecuting Violent Crime, Gun Crimes and Traffickers
In addition to our ongoing efforts to vigorously prosecute all forms of violent crime, in the last year we have focused on gun-related offenses, including gun trafficking and multiple ghost gun prosecutions, and have prioritized education, training and community outreach on gun safety.

  • Prosecuted hundreds of gun-related cases involving more than 450 guns removed from our streets by law enforcement, which has made Westchester safer.
  • Seized nearly 100 ghost guns as a result of our work on numerous operations with law enforcement partners to prosecute individuals possessing ghost guns in Westchester County.
  • Strengthened our partnership with multiple state and local law enforcement agencies utilizing a precision policing and prosecution model as part of our Gun & Gang Initiative to focus on the most violent offenders.
  • Joined a multi-agency investigation that led to the takedown of gun traffickers, and the dismantling of an illegal weapons pipeline from out of state.
  • Prioritized Red Flag Law training for law enforcement, school administrators, mental health practitioners and parents, and continued our education on safe firearm storage, with school district superintendents and gun safety advocates like Moms Demand Action.
  • Supported law enforcement in filing a record number of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), which remove firearms from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Advocating for Crime Victims
The criminal justice system extends beyond prosecutions. We prioritize crime victims to ensure that they, and their families, have a voice in the process and feel supported.

  • Secured competitive $1 million grant (funded over next three years) from the New York State Office of Victim Services under the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim and Witness Assistance Grant Program.
  • Instituted policy to ensure all junior prosecutors receive trauma-informed interview training to better equip them to support victims.
  • Completed training of all 42 police departments in Westchester County as part of the Training Committee for the Domestic Violence High-Risk Training Initiative, a countywide partnership with county government agencies that uses a lethality assessment in domestic violence cases. This has served as a model for other areas of the state.
  • Created a misdemeanor Domestic Violence Bureau within our Special Prosecutions Division to better service victims of domestic violence.
  • Won a $500,000 Department of Justice 2022 Bureau of Justice Assistance Grant for Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA to support the Cold Case Bureau’s work solving the 134 open cold case homicides in Westchester County.

Holding Perpetrators of Fraud and Cybercrimes Accountable
With the rise of schemes targeting vulnerable residents, we are dedicating more resources to prosecuting fraud, especially online. We’re continuing to partner with community and civic groups to engage, educate and assist the public, especially seniors, minors and immigrants, from falling victim to such crimes.

  • Our Economic Crimes Bureau has prosecuted individuals who have stolen, in total, more than $3.1 million from unsuspecting victims in cases of labor fraud and wage theft, elaborate tax and online money schemes, investment and loan fraud, grandparent and elderly scams, theft by home health aide workers and covid vaccination card fraud.
  • Enhanced our Cyber Crimes Bureau to focus on criminal investigations involving the internet and technology, privacy and data theft, and threats to minors on social media platforms.
  • Partnered with more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in a year-long investigation to crack down on countywide catalytic converter thefts, which resulted in the take down of five men who were allegedly stealing bus and van catalytic converters.

Combating Hate, Bias and Extremism in Westchester
I took office days before the January 6th insurrection on our Capital, and during the surge of hate crimes and extremism rising across the country. It was immediately critical that our approach to these issues in Westchester involve a stronger partnership with local law enforcement and county government.

  • Secured two major felony convictions for violent hate crimes — a 15-year sentence for a racially-motivated attack on a black teenager in Ossining fueled by white nationalist propaganda, and a 17-year sentence for a defendant who brutally attacked an Asian senior in Yonkers.
  • With County Police and County IT, developed a law enforcement online portal for the reporting of Hate Crimes & Bias Incidents for all of Westchester County. Not only will this aid in our prosecutions, but this valuable data will enhance our collaboration with police.
  • Hate Crimes Unit conducted 16 legal trainings with law enforcement and “upstander” presentations at schools and community groups with our partners at the Westchester County Human Rights Commission.

Public Integrity, Police Accountability and Prosecutorial Ethics
Prosecutorial and law enforcement integrity are critical to ensuring public trust in the criminal justice system. We will continue to pursue these cases based on law and fact, and our pledge to always do the right thing, for the right reasons, in the right way.

  • Created the Office’s first Discovery Bureau devoted to helping our ADAs more efficiently comply with the demands of New York's criminal justice reform and discovery requirements.
  • Continued DA-level review of complaints against police officers received by the Westchester County DA’s Office, making referrals to law enforcement agencies for internal disciplinary actions and training recommendations as appropriate.
  • Secured a seven-year prison sentence for a former Peekskill police officer convicted of multiple felony sex crimes after he sexually abused a woman on numerous occasions while on duty.
  • Secured conviction of a former Mount Vernon police officer for assault of a hand-cuffed inmate in his custody.
  • Conducted regular legal and ethics training of our prosecutors and law enforcement partners on topics related to discovery, due process and ethical obligations.

Protecting Reproductive Rights
In the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I pledged to protect safe and legal abortion access in New York by prosecuting any individuals who interfere with patients’ access to abortion care in Westchester.

  • Convicted three men of criminal trespass at a White Plains women’s clinic, and in line with our recommendation, a judge sentenced each of them to the maximum allowed under the law of three months in jail.
  • Sent legal guidance to all Westchester police agencies reinforcing New York state laws on accessing reproductive care services.

Criminal Justice Reform
We are developing valuable partnerships with law enforcement and local government as well as community advocates to make noteworthy firsts in Westchester that reduce recidivism through alternatives to traditional prosecution, which studies show lead to safer communities.

  • Consented to Westchester’s first reduced sentence for a domestic violence survivor under New York State’s 2019 Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA). We recognize that the DVSJA is an important evolution in the way the criminal justice system views survivors of abuse.
  • Celebrated the first anniversary and countywide expansion of Fresh Start, Westchester County’s first pre-arraignment diversion program, which has offered more than 200 first-time defendants who faced non-violent, low-level offenses a chance at rehabilitation instead of traditional prosecution.
  • Marked our first year of the Mount Vernon Emerging Adult Justice Part, a youth diversion program developed with Mount Vernon City Court, the Legal Aid Society, the Youth Shelter of Westchester, and the Office of Court Administration, to provide opportunities and resolutions for young adults ages 18 to 25 as alternatives to conventional prosecution, conviction, and fines.
  • Continued to take part in New Rochelle City Court’s Opportunity Youth Part, which offers emerging adults ages 16 to 24 services in mental health, substance abuse, workforce development, education and mentorship.
  • Expanded access to treatment and rehabilitation offered through New York’s Veteran’s, Mental Health and Drug Treatment courts for felony offenders who face non-violent charges.

Together with the 129 ADAs, 34 criminal investigators and 90-plus support staff—making us the largest prosecutorial agency in the state of New York outside of NYC—I am proud to continue serving as your DA, protecting crime victims, fighting for equal justice and keeping Westchester a safe place to live and work.

Miriam E. Rocah
District Attorney
Westchester County, New York

KEEPING WESTCHESTER SAFE

 

 

 

 

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