Good news for anyone wandering around Brooklyn with an I Love NYC condom in their wallet: though the NYPD can seize condoms in cases of alleged prostitution, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes says his office will no longer be accepting possession of said condoms as evidence.
Cops have been collecting accused prostitutes' condoms for years now, and a few lawmakers have been trying to get the practice overturned in Albany for over a decade. Now, Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes says his office will not use condoms as evidence, and he sent a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly asking that his officers stop collecting them in raids. But though NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Times that condoms aren't "necessary" to seize as evidence, he added, "We do not rule out their evidentiary value when going after pimps and sex traffickers. If there is a bowlful of condoms in a massage parlor, we want our officers to be able to seize them as evidence against the trafficker."
Hynes isn't the only district attorney to discourage using condoms as evidence; both the Manhattan, Queens and Bronx D.A.'s offices say prophylactics aren't generally introduced in individual cases against prostitution. But cops are still legally allowed to seize condoms, even if they aren't often used in court, and human rights activists hope Hynes's move will encourage the NYPD to stop doing so altogether. "We think what DA Hynes has done shows great leadership,” Rebecca Schleifer, advocacy director of the Health and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told the NY Observer. "What we want to happen next is for commissioner Kelly to take immediate steps to order the police force to stop using condoms as evidence in prostitution-related offenses."
Last year, the HRW published a report that found the condom-seizure policy made sex workers afraid to carry protection with them, for fear they'd be used as evidence against them. According to the report: "Police use of condoms as evidence of prostitution has the same effect everywhere: despite millions of dollars spent on promoting and distributing condoms as an effective method of HIV prevention, groups most at risk of infection—sex workers, transgender women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth—are afraid to carry them and therefore engage in sex without protection as a result of police harassment." The NYPD made nearly 2,500 arrests for misdemeanor prostitution last year.