The NYPD will stop seizing condoms when arresting sex workers. According to a department release, for minor arrests, "condoms will be secured for safe keeping along with other items of personal property and returned to individuals after they are released from custody."
The release states that condoms confiscated in other offenses that involve sex work, such as promoting prostitution (a charge brought against pimps) and sex trafficking cases, will continue to be held as evidence.
“This is a reasonable approach to targeting the most at risk community as it relates to safer sex practices and continuing to build strong cases against the vast criminal enterprise associated with prostitution," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “The NYPD heard from community health advocates and took a serious look at making changes to our current policy as it relates to our broader public safety mission."
The president of the National Organization for Women, Sonia Ossorio, added, “This policy opens the door for individuals in prostitution to stop risking their health for fear of carrying condoms. It's every individual's right to be able to protect their health and this policy shift under the new NYPD leadership goes a long way in furthering sound public health policy.”
A disturbing report issued by Human Rights Watch quoted sex workers who lived in fear of being arrested for carrying condoms. "How many times have I had unprotected sex because I was afraid of carrying condoms? Many times," a sex worker named Anastasia said.
Another report co-authored by the Sex Workers Project, the NYPD makes roughly 2,000 arrests for prostitution each year, though many others are charged with disorderly conduct and given an ACD. State legislation that would prohibit police from using condoms as evidence of prostitution recently passed the Assembly and now moves to the Senate.