The state and borough’s top prosecutors – Attorney General Letitia James and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez – last night addressed deed fraud, gun control and violent crime at a “Law & Justice” Forum at Fort Greene’s Pratt Insititute.
NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez moderated the discussion, which Democratic District Leader Olanike (Ola) Alabi co-sponsored and organized with help from the Pratt Institute, the Fort Greene Association and AARP’s Clinton Hill chapter. Among those in attendance included NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblymember Walter Mosley, representatives for U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Community Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler.
One issue James touched on was that of Central Brooklyn homeowner abuse and often illegal or undervalued sales. “We just recently were able to get a conviction of an individual responsible for scamming senior citizens. And so we’re going to continue to investigate those individuals who prey upon seniors and prey upon people who are equity rich, but cash poor,” James said.
“We’re recently proposing a bill which basically addresses deed theft here in Brooklyn, but also throughout the state of New York. We also need to look at non-solicitation orders. We can provide a check on real estate brokers here in Community Boards 2, 3. and 8,” she added. “It’s really critically important that individuals understand that people who are approaching you, each and every day, they are undervaluing your home, they’re preying upon you.”
On a similar note, the State’s Attorney General described how she has experienced churches being scammed or lured into bad contracts, and urged anyone suspicious of such a situation to contact her office or 311.
“We’re losing churches after churches after churches, and unfortunately at the 11th hour. Because churches, not-for-profit and religious organizations are under the jurisdiction of the attorney general, they usually come to our offices at the 11th hour, oftentimes too late. And they enter into these contracts with these bad actors. And what we are trying to do is provide some relief, but it’s often very difficult,” said James. “I know a number of churches here in central Brooklyn when they entered into deals with backers, they thought they were rebuilding the church and at the last minute they find out the church is in the basement with no windows.”
On gun safety, James had recently ordered online retailers of “ghost guns”, a term describing parts of guns being sold separately to avoid regulations, to discontinue their sales. “Right now there is a bill pending in Albany to basically ban the sale of ghost guns. And we are looking at the possibility of litigation and/or investigating with District Attorney Gonzalez, individuals who are being convicted of selling ghost guns in the State of New York,” she said.
The Attorney General also commented on other recently enacted and proposed reforms coming from the State Legislature, such as the elimination of cash bail in most instances. “Implementing those reforms will have new challenges, but also new opportunities. And hopefully this year we can go into finally putting an end to solitary confinement.”
On a question regarding a recent spike of shootings throughout the city, Gonzalez noted that the borough is doing better than the city at large. “While shootings are up and homicides are up in New York City this year compared to last year, in Brooklyn they’re actually down,” said Gonzalez. “We’re moving in the right directions in terms of Brooklyn.”
The District Attorney added that, however, Brooklyn’s five most crime-plagued precincts are the same ones going back 25 years ago. “We’ve lowered the number of shootings and crime in these precincts, but they’re still the precincts that have the highest number of violent incidents,” he said before adding that working with violence interrupters, the Mayor’s office and various programs will help drive down crime rates further. “That’s how we’re going to drive down crime numbers more.”