BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – The Rockland County District Attorney’s Office released its annual report this Tuesday, emphasizing an expansion in drug enforcement and treatment as well as ramped up efforts against domestic abuse, human trafficking and fradulent receipts of STAR benefits.
In 2013, the DA’s Office prosecuted 608 felony cases this year, up 1.16 percent from 2012’s figure of 601 cases. Five hundred and eighty eight convictions were obtained overall for a conviction rate of 96.7 percent, an increase over 2012’s figures of 574 convictions for a 95.5 percent rate.
In other areas, figures similarly reflected a higher incidence of successful arrests and prosecutions. The Rockland County Drug Task Force made 221 undercover drug purchases, 180 investigations, 62 leads, 30 operational events, and 143 arrests in 2013.
Though 2012 saw 20 more investigations, this year saw more leads, operational events, and many more arrests than last year’s 96 collars. Much like last year, most arrests were for cocaine and crack, marijuana, heroin and prescription drugs.
Felony and misdemeanor drug courts, the latter of which was only introduced last year, also saw some unique trends. Significantly less individuals were admitted into the felony drug court this year, with 2013’s 60 individuals down from 100 in 2012. However, a much greater proportion successfully completed the program, with almost 75 percent successful in 2013, up from 45 percent in 2012.
The misdemeanor drug court saw less activity this year, with the 20 referrals in 2013. This was down significantly from the 47 referrals in 2012. The number of participants was slightly lower by year end as well, down to 12 in 2013 from 19 in 2012.
However, the County’s SCRAM program, which counsels and monitors alcohol intake for those convicted of DWI offenses, saw more activity. Sixty drug court participants were enrolled in 2013, up from 40 in 2012. The DA’s Office also touted an expansion of its Special Victims outreach, with all police agencies now making use of the “Spirit of Rockland” Special Victims’ Center. Eighty child victims and 92 adult victims were referred to the center in 2013, an increase of about 10 percent over the 82 child victims and 73 adult victims reported in 2012.
Two other major programs saw their inception in 2013. One was a crackdown on fraudulent recipients of New York STAR program benefits. An amnesty program offered by the DA’s Office made most prosecutions unnecessary, with 123 individuals voluntarily renouncing their illegally-obtained exemptions to the tune of $432,000 in savings. Only three criminal cases were brought forward concerning illegal exemptions.
The other major program was part education and part enforcement. With cooperation from the Center for Safety and Change, the DA’s Office participated in a broad joint venture to educate the general public on human trafficking which was anticipated to spike with New Jersey’s hosting of the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
The DA’s Office saw some staffing and budgetary changes as well. Four new investigative staff members work at the office. The budget saw an increase of $167,914, though a greater percentage of resources was shifted to the DAO proper and grants meant the Drug Task Force was left with a budget about $9.3 million lighter than the one it had in 2012.