NEW YORK (WABC) --Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced Friday an initiative aimed at helping Brooklyn residents make a fresh start and have the weight of an open summons warrant lifted from their shoulders.
It's called "Begin Again", and the program is designed to offer a solution to thousands of individuals who have an outstanding warrant because they failed to answer a citation for low-level offenses. Those estimated 1.2 million open warrants citywide carry a host of negative consequences.
District Attorney Thompson said, "Many of our Brooklyn neighbors are in danger of being placed in handcuffs and put through the system for failing to respond to a ticket for drinking alcohol in public, riding a bike on the sidewalk, walking a dog without a leash or being in a park after dark. The summons itself might have been for a minor offense, but the warrant can have - and may have already had - a major negative impact and can put our police officers at risk unnecessarily. During Begin Again events across Brooklyn, law-enforcement agencies and the communities we serve will work together to resolve this burden in a fair, efficient and supportive way."
U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said, "Over 200,000 Brooklynites have outstanding warrants as a result of low-level, non-violent offenses. We must be proactive in cleaning up this issue so that our justice system can be free to prosecute violent crime and keep hardened criminals off the streets. This initiative is a win-win for all involved and a good first step toward our goal of preventing nuisance offenses from ruining the lives of our young people across New York City. District Attorney Thompson should be commended for his commitment in bringing this essential program to life."
New York City Criminal Court Administrative Judge Melissa Jackson said, "The Court is pleased to collaborate with the Brooklyn District Attorney, the Legal Aid Society, members of the clergy, NYPD and volunteer members of the community to bring about the two-day "Begin Again" event. We encourage individuals with outstanding summons warrants to take full advantage of this opportunity to vacate their warrants and dispose of their cases in this accessible and supportive environment."
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, "The fundamental futures for tens of thousands of Brooklynites are at risk due to over a quarter of a million open warrants for low-level summonsable offenses in our borough. After patrolling our streets for 22 years as an NYPD officer, I know first-hand that we cannot tolerate quality-of-life disturbances. Still, we can all agree that the punishment must fit the offense. A young person that is arrested for failing to pay a summons at the age of 18 should not become unemployable at 21 due to an arrest based on a summons warrant. District Attorney Thompson is advancing justice and public safety alike through the Begin Again initiative, and I urge affected Brooklynites to avail themselves of this important program."
District Attorney Thompson said that the first Begin Again event is being held on Father's Day Weekend in partnership with clergy and other community leaders, elected officials, the New York City Police Department, the Legal Aid Society and the Office of Court Administration. It is taking place Friday, June 19th and Saturday, June 20th from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church, located at 279 Lafayette Avenue, corner of St. James Place, in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
Similar opportunities, all funded by the District Attorney's Office, are planned for additional neighborhoods over the coming year.
All outstanding summons warrants are eligible for Begin Again. Applicable offenses include, but are not limited to the following: unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of alcohol under the age of 21, consumption of alcohol in public, unlawful possession of handcuffs, littering, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, making unreasonable noise, animal nuisance, failure to have a dog license, unleashed dog, spitting, trespass, disorderly conduct, loitering, being in the park after closing, failure to comply with a posted sign in the park and transit fare evasion.
For more information please visit: http://brooklynda.org/begin-again/