- The New York Police Department won't take condoms in some prostitution arrests
- The new policy is aimed at protecting public health, the department says
- A suspect having condoms was used for probable cause, Sex Workers Project says
- As a result, some sex workers did not carry the protection, advocacy group says
The New York Police Department announced Monday it will no longer confiscate unused condoms as evidence in some prostitution-related offenses, according to a press release from the department.
The new policy will allow condoms to be held with other personal property that is returned when individuals have been released from custody on cases of prostitution and loitering for the purpose of prostitution, according to Det. Cheryl Crispin, a department spokeswoman.
Condoms will still be confiscated and invoiced by police in other prostitution-related arrests, such as promoting prostitution and sex trafficking, according to the release.
A suspect having condoms in his or her possession was a factor in determining if probable cause existed, according to the Sex Workers Project, a group that provides legal and social services to people who engage in sex work.
The new policy, which was intended to ensure public health while maintaining effective criminal investigations, was implemented after the department collaborated with public health officials, community-based advocates and other city officials, according to Police Commissioner William Bratton.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Monday. "A policy that actually inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and dangerous."
"We are happy that this policy has been announced and we think it is an important step in the right direction," Sienna Baskin, co-director of the Sex Workers Project, told CNN. "Unfortunately, we don't think it goes far enough or solves all the problems."
Baskin said that her organization is concerned that condoms may still be confiscated in certain situations and that police will continue to use the possession of condoms to justify an arrest. The group has been advocating a change in the condom confiscation policy for many years.
A 2010 report by the New York City Department of Health, which was released by Human Rights Watch, found that 57% of sex workers surveyed had had condoms taken away by a police officer.
In addition, 33% of sex workers reported that they had not carried condoms at one time because of fear of trouble with police, according to the report.
"This policy opens the door for individuals in prostitution to stop risking their health for fear of carrying condoms," Sonia Ossorio, president of the Nation Organization for Women, said in the department's press release.
"It's every individual's right to be able to protect their health and this policy shift under the new NYPD leadership goes a long way to protect their health and this policy shift ... goes a long way in furthering sound public health policy," said Ossorio.