City Council Fire & Criminal Justice Chair Elizabeth Crowley (D-30, Queens), City Health Committee Chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-17, Bronx), along with Council Members Gale Brewer (D-6, Manhattan), Daniel Halloran (R-19, Queens), Council Member Letitia James (D-35, Brooklyn), colleagues and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Qian W., Bronx sexual assault victim, Jim R., father of a Queens sexual assault survivor from the case of People v. James Gillespie and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) workers gathered today to call for the continuation of funding for the critically needed SART program, which the Administration’s FY12 budget proposes to cut. Operating out of public hospitals in four New York City counties, SART workers are trained to respond to a sexual assault victim within one hour, to provide forensic examination to collect physical evidence critically needed for investigations and prosecutions, and to care for sexual assault victims compassionately and carefully.
Costing the City only $1.27 million, SART has significantly enhanced the City’s ability to identify sexual assailants quickly and efficiently to ensure that rapists are caught before they can strike again. Evidence collected through the SART has been critical in both solving cases and convicting the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes. In 2006, due to the success of the SART programs in the Bronx and Brooklyn, Mayor Bloomberg expanded the program citywide.
Council Member Elizabeth Crowely, Chair of the Fire & Criminal Justice Committee said, “SART sends the message that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this City—to eliminate this program, at the height of its success, gives perpetrators and potential perpetrators the wrong message. Since its inception, SART has been instrumental in identifying and bringing to justice rapists and sexual offenders. Trained to respond to a victim within the hour, SART workers provide critically needed services from victim counseling to convicting perpetrators to deterring sexual assaults. On behalf of the victims of these horrendous crimes, I urge that funding for this critical program not be eliminated so that we can continue to take a strong and united stance against sex offenders.”
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, “Sexual Assault Response Teams have been operating in our City’s hospitals since 2006. These are specially trained medical experts who respond to our City’s hospitals to perform the forensic examinations required in sexual assault cases and who care for our sexual assault victims with compassion and understanding. Without their expertise in the emergency room, DNA evidence collection will decrease and without their expertise in the courtroom the prosecution of rape cases will suffer. I urge that funding for this critically needed programs be continued at current levels.”
Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Chair of Government Operations, said, “As several recent high-profile court cases have demonstrated, sexual assault continues to increase in our city and it has never been more important for survivors to be treated quickly, professionally and compassionately. Now is the time to support services such as SART and the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Crime Victims Treatment Center and not to cut their funding. I know from my constituents who have experienced sexual assault that the St. Luke’s program and others like it are key to their treatment after these experiences.”
Other attendees of today’s press conference included, but are not limited to: Susan Xenarios, Director of the Crimes Victims Treatment Center at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital; Queens Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Marjory Fisher, Special Victims Bureau Chief; Queens ADA Eric Rosenbaum, DNA Prosecutions Unit Chief; Queens ADA Leigh Bishop, Special Victims Bureau Senior Trial Attorney; Queens ADA Jared Rosenblatt, Special Victims Bureau; Bronx ADA Joe Muroff, Special Victims Bureau Chief; Kings County’s Chief ADA Amy Feinstein & ADA Ronnie Jauss, Sex Crimes/Crimes Against Children Bureau Chief; Brigette Alexander, Medical Director Bronx SART and Attending ER Physician North Central Bronx Jacobi Hospital; Glenda Guzman, SART Coordinator of Elmhurst Hospital Queens; and Rebecca Carmen, social worker at Elmhurst Hospital; Michael Polenberg, Safe Horizon Vice President of Governmental Affairs, or other Safe Horizon representative.