Jesse J. Sligh
Executive Assistant District Attorney
GOING BEYOND PROSECUTION
TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
While Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all criminal cases within Queens County, he has also sought alternative measures to broaden conventional prosecutorial methods and solutions to crime control.
Drawing on his years of experience as a judge, District Attorney Brown established an office of Special Prosecutions early in his administration to build strong community partnerships, tackle quality of life issues, and spearhead his crime prevention and mentoring programs.
Under the direction of Executive Assistant District Attorney Jesse J. Sligh, the Special Prosecutions Division wasted no time in reaching out to the Queens communities where strong ties were quickly established. Because of these strong ties ‑ developed through the many community meetings and events they attended ‑ Mr. Sligh and his staff quickly became attuned and responsive to the communities’ needs. As a result of these efforts, the Special Prosecutions Division has been an enormously successful tool in the ongoing fight against quality of life crimes, including drag racing, graffiti, illegal social clubs, prostitution and disorderly locations.
Their strategy is simple ‑ build strong community partnerships, maintain access, aggressively root out crime and find the most effective course of action. As problem solvers, they target areas both before and after crimes have been committed and rapidly respond to the communities’ complaints about crime in their neighborhoods. And as mentors, their crime prevention and educational programs have guided many of this county’s young people down the right path in life.
Problem Solving‑Tackling Quality of Life Issues:
The Special Prosecutions Division’s proactive approach to crime fighting and long term commitment to the community has resulted in the District Attorney’s Office successfully reducing crime and improving the quality of life for Queens’ residents and business people.
Through the meetings they attend or host, the Division gathers information on crimes being committed or on problem locations with a potential of crime. They listen to each complaint and then target the location for a specific action in order to correct the problem. As an additional source of information, Assistant District Attorneys attend every precinct’s monthly community council meetings to gather complaints and crime trends.
It is because of these valued partnerships with the community that trust is established ‑ allowing information and ideas to be exchanged freely.
This conduit of information and intelligence gathering enables the Special Prosecutions Division to formulate the most effective solutions in meeting the needs of the various communities and cut across operational lines to effect change.
Through various enforcement methods and working closely with the District Attorney’s Special Proceedings, Narcotics Trials and Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureaus, the police, and many federal, state or city agencies, the office has been able to lower the level of crime within the community. Special Prosecutions strongly advocates and often seeks an enhanced prosecution or a greater sentence than what is normally given on a crime, even when it is a low‑level offense. These efforts serve to give residents longer lasting solutions.
Some of the partnerships that Special Prosecutions has created or actively participates in include:
Graffiti Task Force
Queens Traffic Safety Board
Utility Imposter Task Force
MARCH: The Multi Agency Response to Community Hotspots responds to problem locations in an all‑out multi‑agency effort.
State Liquor Authority Task Force
Roosevelt Avenue Task Force
Precinct Community Council Meetings
Project Safe Neighborhood
Safe Schools and Healthy Students Initiative
Weed and Seed Task Force
Illegal Conversion Task Force
Immigration Task Force
Advisory Councils: Soon after becoming District Attorney, Richard A. Brown created special community groups ‑ advisory councils ‑ which reflect the diverse population in Queens. Because this diversity sometimes poses a challenge to prosecutors, these councils help bridge that gap, translating any cultural differences or special needs into very simple terms. The Advisory Councils meet regularly where they actively participate in establishing crime fighting priorities within their own communities. These meetings help keep the District Attorney informed and responsive to their needs. Today, the District Attorney’s Advisory Councils ‑ African‑American, Asian‑American, Jewish, Business and Student ‑ form a crucial part of the partnership that Special Prosecutions has established.
In addition to the activities mentioned above, the Special Prosecutions Division oversees District Attorney Brown’s crime prevention programs. With the help of the Division’s staff and the many assistant district attorneys who voluntarily participate in these programs and serve as mentors, thousands of Queens’ children have been taught invaluable lessons with an anti‑crime message. As a result of these efforts, the Special Prosecutions Division has been able to guide many young people in the right direction in life and instill a sense of pride and hope.
These programs challenge the children through role playing situations, lectures, field trips, special events and internships and often help to inspire them. They provide the young people with role models and with the confidence to believe that they can take steps to make their own future safe, secure and successful.
Mock trial preparation
Presentations to parent associations
STAR Track Program: The Special Prosecutions Division and Assistant District Attorneys voluntarily participate in and work with Far Rockaway students in an anti gun violence program. The curriculum deals with gun violence, drug and gang awareness education, and focuses on self esteem, peer mediation, and conflict resolution.
Youth Enrichment Project: The Special Prosecutions Division, in partnership with the Queens borough Public Library and the Second Chance Unit of the office, give young people between the ages of 16 to 19 who have had a minor scrape with the law a second chance. As part of their continuing crime prevention efforts, this partnership offers these first time offenders computer training, the necessary skills related to getting a job, training on proper workplace habits and exposure to different career paths.
Summer Youth Employment Program: The District Attorney’s Office conducts a summer internship program for teens to teach them about law enforcement and help develop the skills necessary to enter the job market. The students are assigned to work in the many Bureaus of the District Attorney’s Office where, in addition to their regular duties, they receive instruction on dressing for success, proper demeanor in an office, timeliness, interacting with others, writing a resume and cover letter and practicing for job interviews. The students meet regularly during their internships with the Special Prosecutions staff to discuss the responsibilities and rewards of the work culture.
Law Enforcement Explorers Post: Since 1996, the District Attorney’s Office has run a local post of the Law Enforcement Explorers for high school students who are interested in the legal profession. In partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, students are given an opportunity to learn the law firsthand through an informative program which includes lectures from experts in the field of criminal and civil law, trips to forensic laboratories and to Rikers Island.
Operation Summer Fun: In 1993, it became clear to the Special Prosecutions Division that many young people from Southeast Queens had too much idle time on their hands during the summer and needed positive alternatives. The Queens District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the New York City Police Department, initiated Operation Summer Fun to offer positive, constructive activities. Three days a week during July and August, children 7 to 13 years of age explore the City accompanied by members of the District Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement personnel. Students are taken on trips to parks, museums, zoos, science centers, ball games, and sightseeing attractions. This program gives youngsters the opportunity to share and exchange ideas with members of the community, the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office in a relaxed atmosphere.
Job Shadow Day: The District Attorney’s Office participates in this program sponsored by the Board of Education. Once a year, high school students are selected to trail various professionals, including Assistant District Attorneys for the entire day. These students are given some insight into the criminal justice system and career opportunities in law enforcement. They also have the opportunity to see firsthand the wide range of responsibilities an Assistant District Attorney faces each day.
GRAFFITI - UN-PAINTING THE TOWN
In 1991, prior to District Attorney Brown’s taking office, many of the public spaces in Queens had a very different look than they do today. Back then, everywhere people turned, walls were covered with layers upon layers of graffiti. No blank space seemed to escape this nuisance C including housing developments in the Rockaways, storefronts in Forest Hills, subways, underpasses, playgrounds, schools and parks.
Shortly after being sworn into office, District Attorney Brown mapped out a strategy to combat graffiti and clean up the neighborhoods. He knew that focusing on quality of life issues would also impact greatly on more serious crimes. The Special Prosecutions Division was able to gather the necessary intelligence through the close community bonds they had established to tackle the problems. The Division also joined forces with the District Attorney’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Bureau and the New York City Police Department. Together, they began cataloging the graffiti in an effort to identify its creators and arrest them. As the arrests and vigorous prosecutions of quality of life crimes increased, graffiti declined.
Much of District Attorney Brown’s intelligence gathering has come from listening to the community he serves. Whether he attends community meetings personally or learns of the conditions through the Special Prosecutions Division, the District Attorney wastes no time in acting on those complaints.
When it comes to cases that are prostitution related, the Special Prosecutions Division joins with the police and the District Attorney’s Special Proceedings Bureau and their combined efforts set off a series of well planned and executed maneuvers, using both criminal and civil procedures.
PLEASE CALL US AT: (718) 286‑6400
|If you are interested in joining one of our many crime prevention programs or want to be more involved in quality of life issues in your neighborhood, please call us at the above number or email us at JJSLIGH@QUEENSDA.ORG.