Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance will stop prosecuting people arrested on charges of prostitution and unlicensed massage, a policy change his office describes as the first of its kind in the state.

Vance made the announcement during an appearance in court on Wednesday, when he dismissed 914 prostitution and non-licensed massage cases dating back to the 1970s, as well as more than 5,000 “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” cases, following New York State’s repeal of the so-called “walking while trans” statute earlier this year.

“Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” Vance, who was first elected to Manhattan District Attorney in 2009, said in a statement.

Since 2016, the office has declined to prosecute prostitution cases, but required those who were charged to complete five counseling sessions. Now, these services will be voluntary. The Brooklyn District Attorney also dismisses these cases when individuals accept services. When individuals can’t be reached, services are offered during the first court appearance and cases are normally dismissed then, a spokesman for the office said.

The Manhattan D.A.'s office will continue to prosecute crimes such as sex trafficking and paying for the services of sex workers.

Advocates applauded Vance’s decision. Abigail Swenstein, staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project, said it was the first step in what she hopes will be many changes in the way that prostitution charges are handled by law enforcement.

“[The] announcement is amazing and ideally will have reverberations outside of New York City, outside of New York County,” she said.

Vance’s office has asked the New York Police Department to provide those who are arrested in Manhattan with a list of resources and an explanation that their case will not be processed. But Swenstein said she hoped the NYPD would take this shift in policy into account and stop making arrests for prostitution altogether. A spokesman for the department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“If the police take this as a cue to stop making arrests, I know that people that are out there working in sex work, whether by choice, circumstance or coercion, are going to feel safer knowing that they will not have to interact with law enforcement,” she said.

Vance, who has said he will not run for a fourth term, follows in the footsteps of several other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, which have stopped charging people with prostitution and other low-level offenses.

Advocates said they hoped the move would also help advance their agenda of fully decriminalizing sex work and that they’d continue pushing for the passage of the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act in the state legislature. Another bill, which doesn’t go toward full decriminalization but continues holding clients accountable, has also been introduced this year.

Advocates also said the D.A.’s decision will help women of color, immigrants and LGBTQ+ people who have been disproportionately affected by “walking while trans” and unlicensed massage laws.

“This resolute action to actively decriminalize sex workers is the kind of change our community has been hoping for, advocating for, for decades,” Cecilia Gentili, founder of Transgender Equity Consulting said in a statement.