The Bronx: A great place for a life of crime if you can intimidate your victim. According to an excellent investigative report by WNYC, The Bronx DA's office declines to prosecute more often than the district attorneys in Brooklyn and Queens combined. Last year, Bronx DA Robert Johnson declined to prosecute more than 18,000 arrests by the NYPD, while Brooklyn and Manhattan prosecutors threw out an average of 5,300 cases each. And according to WNYC, the reason has to do with an internal guideline in the Bronx DA's office requiring prosecutors to interview victims within 24 hours.
Bronx prosecutors have had the highest decline-to-prosecute rate in the city for 13 of the last 16 years, a trend that coincides with the start of DA Johnson's tenure in 1989. Half of the dropped cases are declined because victims refuse to cooperate, but Linda Fairstein, who served as Chief of Sex Crimes in the Manhattan DA’s Office for 26 years, counters "that first 24 hours is when you’re trying hardest to find your victim or witness, and that’s the time the witness may be most unable, if not reluctant, to come forward."
Factor in the "stop snitching" culture in many high-crime communities, and you can see how this 24-hour guideline may contribute to cases being dropped too quickly. DA Johnson was not interviewed for WNYC's story, the first of a two-part series, but his chief assistant, Odalys Alonso, says her office usually waits "about four hours for a victim to show up after an arrest report arrives at the DA’s office before tossing out a case."
Critics of the DA's 24-hour guideline are concerned that this has a chilling effect on police work. And one former NYPD detective in the Bronx tells WNYC that with so many cases getting thrown out, "You just kind of get burnt out after awhile."