Homicides, Shootings and Other Violent Crimes Steeply Declined in Brooklyn During 2021, Bucking Citywide Trend

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 31, 2020

 

Homicides, Shootings and Other Violent Crimes Steeply Declined in
Brooklyn During 2021, Bucking Citywide Trend

Murders Declined by 16%, Shootings and Shooting Victims Dropped by Over 20%
Compared to Previous Year; Rapes, Robberies, Burglaries Were Also Down

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that Brooklyn made gains in public safety during 2021, as homicides and shootings declined compared to 2020. Those categories inched up in other boroughs and citywide. The Brooklyn DA’s Office continued to focus on street gangs and other violent individuals while expanding outreach efforts in and partnerships with impacted communities and violence interrupters. With actions that increased fairness, transparency and accountability, the District Attorney remains committed to keeping Brooklyn safe and enhancing community trust in the justice system.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “I am gratified to report that public safety in Brooklyn improved over the past year, with significant declines in murders, shootings and other major crimes. We still have work to do as we recover from the rise in gun violence that we experienced in 2020 and continue to face challenges from the ongoing pandemic. But through the hard work of my prosecutors and law enforcement partners, our focus on the most violent individuals and growing partnerships with community-based groups – we are showing that there are answers to violence. I am hopeful that the progress will continue into the coming year when we plan to put in place new preventative approaches while staying laser-focused on the small number of people who cause harm in our communities.”

The District Attorney said that 147 murders were recorded in Brooklyn in 2021, 28 or 16% fewer than the 175 suffered in 2020. The most significant drops were in the Crown Heights and Flatbush areas: 75% in the 71st Precinct, 60% in the 70th Precinct and 45% in the 77th Precinct. Citywide, murders were up about 4% for the year.

There were 517 shooting incidents in Brooklyn in 2021, a 20.7% drop compared to the previous year. Significantly, shootings declined in 20 of the 23 Brooklyn precincts, including in Flatbush/Midwood (down 55%), Williamsburg (down 45%), Canarsie (down 36%), and East New York (down 32%). Citywide, there was a 2% uptick in shooting incidents.

Shooting victims in Brooklyn plunged by 23.1%, from 808 to 621. [All stats are based on the New York City Police Department’s CompStat reports.]

While these homicides and shooting numbers represent an increase from the record-breaking 2018 (fewest homicides on record, at 98) and 2019 (fewest shootings since record keeping began, at 290), they are comparable to numbers from five-six years ago (146 homicides in 2015 and 520 shootings in 2014).

The decrease in crime is also reflected by other major crime categories: rape was down 7.3%, robbery down 6.4% and burglary down 16.7% compared to 2020. There were increases, however, in felony assault (6.9%), grand larceny (9.3%) and hate crimes (41.1%).

The District Attorney said that his Office, together with the NYPD and federal partners, conducted four successful gang takedowns this year, which resulted in shootings decreases in surrounded neighborhoods. For the first time, these law enforcement actions were followed up with outreach in the impacted communities, where the actions were explained, and questions were answered. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, these efforts resulted in working groups and a Youth Summit that engaged young people in that community on what safety means to them. A violence prevention program that will be established in 2022 grew out of these conversations.

In Brownsville, the DA’s Office took part in a number of initiatives aimed at reducing violence and increasing community participation. Those include the Brownsville Safety Alliance, a pilot with local stakeholders that reduces police presence and empowers violence interrupters and social service providers; a Hub Project – community-led mobile response teams that endeavor to assist families and individuals in crisis; and referrals of misdemeanor desk-appearance tickets to community-based organizations before a court arraignment. Other community engagement efforts included numerous food distribution events in at-need neighborhoods and a holiday toy drive.

In 2021, the District Attorney took several actions to enhance transparency and accountability. In October, CUNY’s Institute for State & Local Governance issued a report analyzing racial disparities in the Brooklyn DA’s prosecutorial process. The data, examining thousands of cases from 2016 through mid-2019, painted a nuanced picture and found fewer than expected racial disparities in outcomes. For instance, people of color were as likely as members of other races to be diverted out of the system at certain points, thus receiving equitable treatment.

In August, the Brooklyn DA’s Office became the first agency in the country to release its entire database of disclosure letters regarding police officers in the borough. The trove of 10,000-plus documents lists all findings that may affect an officer’s credibility and that are constitutionally required to be disclosed to defense lawyers and the court. Released in response to a Freedom of Information request, the disclosures are now part of the public record.

In April, following a review by his Conviction Review Unit, District Attorney Gonzalez asked the courts to dismiss 90 convictions that relied on the work of a former narcotics detective who’s been indicted for perjury in Manhattan. This move was followed by similar actions in other boroughs. The CRU also notched its 30th exoneration since 2014 by moving to vacate the conviction of a man who spent 19 years in prison for firing at police. In addition – to bring the Brooklyn docket in line with evolving laws and policies and to increase fairness – the DA moved to dismiss all the remaining marijuana possession cases and all outstanding warrants pertaining to prostitution and loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

Finally, the Brooklyn DA’s Office continued its advocacy for early release of individuals who had served the minimum sentence and have shown during their time in prison that they can safely return home. The Post-Conviction Justice Bureau submitted 48 letters supporting parole and in about half of those case parole was granted. The Bureau also supported the release of the only person to be granted clemency by the governor this year.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Trinidad and Tobago Citizen Convicted in Double Homicide For Murdering His Sister and Former Girlfriend

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 21, 2021

 

Trinidad and Tobago Citizen Convicted in Double Homicide
For Murdering His Sister and Former Girlfriend

Defendant Faces up to 50 Years to Life in Prison When He is Sentenced

Brooklyn District Eric Gonzalez today announced that a former Brooklyn resident has been convicted of two counts of murder for shooting to death his sister and former girlfriend in July 2002. The defendant then fled Brooklyn and remained at large until his arrest in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 2018.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “For almost 20 years, the family and friends of Patricia Neverson and Donna Davis have waited for this defendant to be brought to justice. This verdict ensures that this defendant will no longer threaten public safety in our communities, and hopefully brings a small measure of solace to the victims’ loved ones.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Andre Neverson, 57, of Trinidad and Tobago. He was convicted yesterday of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon following a jury trial before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant will be sentenced on January 31, 2022, at which time he faces up to 50 years to life in prison.

The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, on July 8, 2002, Neverson fatally shot his older sister, Patricia Neverson, 39, in her Crown Heights, Brooklyn home following an ongoing dispute between them. She was shot in the head and body and was found later that same night.

Later that day, at around 6:20 p.m., Neverson picked up his former girlfriend, Donna Davis, 38, at Audrey Cohen College in Queens. After she got in his minivan, she was never seen again, until, according to the evidence, her body was found dumped in an empty lot in East New York, Brooklyn, with a gunshot wound to her head.

Neverson fled Brooklyn, but was apprehended on September 4, 2018, in Bridgeport, Connecticut by the U.S. Marshals Service and returned to Brooklyn.

The District Attorney thanked Supervising Paralegal Jannette Ayala and Paralegals Meghan Brancato and Angelika Rostkowska, of the Homicide Bureau for their assistance on the case.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Chief of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Daniel M. Murphy, also of the Homicide Bureau.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Brooklyn Contractors Indicted for Allegedly Stealing $93,000 From Five Customers Who Hired Them to Perform Plumbing and Gas Work

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 15, 2021

 

Brooklyn Contractors Indicted for Allegedly Stealing $93,000
From Five Customers Who Hired Them to Perform Plumbing and Gas Work

Defendants, Who Were not Licensed, Allegedly Took Money for Work they Didn’t Complete

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with Acting New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Daniel G. Cort, today announced that two unlicensed Brooklyn contractors and their company have been arraigned on an indictment in which they are charged with grand larceny and scheme to defraud for fraudulently representing they were licensed plumbers and allegedly taking money from five customers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens to do work, then walking off the jobs without completing or properly performing the work.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly engaged in a lengthy and brazen scheme that took advantage of homeowners who put their trust in them. We will continue to investigate fraud and corruption in the home improvement industry and to seek justice for those who are victimized by unscrupulous or dishonest contractors.”

Acting DOI Commissioner Cort said, “These defendants posed as professional, licensed plumbers when they were not; and engaged in plumbing, gas and other remodeling work that they were not licensed to perform; and then failed to complete the work, stealing tens of thousands of dollars from New York City homeowners, according to the charges. Their charged actions reflect no regard for homeowner safety, as they walked off unfinished jobs, leaving homeowners in the costly position of having to hire credentialed professionals to complete the jobs correctly. DOI thanks the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the City Department of Buildings for their partnership on this important investigation that demonstrates how corruption can undermine safety.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Peter DiMassi, 49, of Staten Island, and Marcello Stemma, 42, of Bethpage, New York, and the company that they co-own, Best Priced Construction, Inc., of Brooklyn. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice John Hecht on an indictment in which they are charged with third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud. They were released without bail and ordered to return to court on February 1, 2022.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, between September 21, 2017 and August 5, 2021, the defendants contracted with five different customers to perform plumbing and gas work at their respective properties, one in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan, two in the Bronx and one in Queens.

The defendants, according to the investigation, allegedly claimed verbally or in written estimates that they were licensed plumbers or that they were authorized to work under a licensed plumber – which was not true. In fact, they were not licensed and had no legal professional affiliation with the licensed plumbers whose license numbers were listed on their estimates and contracts.

The customers allegedly paid the defendants amounts ranging from $7,000 to $34,000 for work that was not properly performed or completed. At each property they allegedly walked off the job after getting into a dispute with the customer, who then had to hire another contractor to finish the work or spend additional funds.

The case was investigated by a Detective Investigator from the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau and New York City Department of Investigation Chief of Investigations Barry Romm and Assistant Inspectors General Dan Taylor and Robert Miller.

The District Attorney thanked the New York City Department of Buildings for its assistance in the case.

People who believe they have been victimized by these defendants are encouraged to contact the District Attorney’s Action Center at 718-250-2340.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Three Brooklyn Shopkeepers Indicted for Bribery Scheme to Receive Advance Notice of Health Department Inspections of Eateries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 13, 2021

 

Three Brooklyn Shopkeepers Indicted for Bribery Scheme to Receive Advance Notice of Health Department Inspections of Eateries

Defendants Allegedly Offered Bribe to Health Department Official, Who Reported Incident to the
New York City Department of Investigation, Which Conducted Undercover Probe

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with Acting New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Daniel G. Cort, today announced that three men who own food businesses in Mill Basin, Brooklyn have been arraigned on an indictment in which they are charged with bribery for allegedly offering winnings from a valuable Super Bowl box to a New York City Department of Health official in exchange for a warning about impending inspections.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “It is alleged that these defendants attempted to corrupt and circumvent Health Department protocols that are in place for a reason: to ensure sanitary conditions and protect the public. I commend the City employee who, when allegedly offered a bribe, reported it to DOI. We will now seek to hold the defendants accountable.”

Acting Commissioner Cort said, “Restaurant inspections are meant to be rigorous and conducted without warning to ensure establishments are following the City’s health and safety protocols. These defendants allegedly used corruption and cash to try and game the system, but instead were undone by a City Health employee who stood up for integrity and notified the Department of Investigation, according to the charges. I applaud the City employee who knew to do the right thing and, in so doing, protected the safety of the New Yorkers who frequent these establishments. And I thank the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for their dedicated partnership on this investigation.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as John DiSanto, 50, of Bergen Beach, Brooklyn; his brother, Jack DiSanto, 47, of Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, and Robert Cuba, 55, of Staten Island. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Sharen Hudson on an indictment in which they are each charged with one count of second- and third-degree bribery. Their businesses, Gourmet Grill, Inc., Frozen Planet Yogurt, LLC, and Mill Basin Bagel Café, Inc., were also arraigned on the same charges. The defendants were released without bail and ordered to return to court on January 19, 2022.

The District Attorney said that, in approximately January 2020, John DiSanto allegedly communicated with a Department of Health (DOH) employee by text, seeking advance notice of inspections in exchange for a Super Bowl box. The employee reported the alleged bribe attempt to DOI, who used an undercover investigator to communicate with the defendant. The defendant subsequently communicated with the undercover, whom he allegedly believed to be a DOH employee who could give him advance notice of inspections to be performed at his restaurant, Gourmet Grill, located at 6334 Avenue N in Brooklyn.

DiSanto allegedly promised the undercover two lucrative boxes in an annual Super Bowl pool, explaining that he would cover the cost of the $1,000 boxes which could ultimately lead to a $50,000 payoff. In exchange, the undercover agreed to give DiSanto advance notice of the annual DOH inspections at Gourmet Grill, as well as Frozen Yogurt Planet, located at 6340 Avenue N (and owned by DiSanto’s brother and co-defendant, Jack DiSanto) and Mill Basin Bagel Café, located at 6319 Avenue N (and owned by DiSanto’s cousin and co-defendant, Robert Cuba).

The following transcript of an alleged conversation in January 2020 between the undercover and DiSanto laid out the arrangement:

JD: You’ll have your sets of numbers and if you hit, you come see me and you come collect. And if you don’t hit, you’re in it next year.

UC: Yeah

JD: But you just have to give me your word that you’re going to help me.

UC: Ok, so just – you want me to look after the bagel.

JD: My three stores. My family stores.

UC: Bagel, Frozen –

JD: And Gourmet Grill.

UC: And Gourmet Grill. And then just, you’ll give me the two boxes and then –

JD: They’re yours forever.

UC: And I’ll look through the system?

JD: All you have to do is tell me, John, ah, we have a … [A former DOH employee] described the person that would come –

UC: Ok.

In a later conversation, the defendant allegedly said that he and his co-defendants need advance notice of one week for any upcoming inspections “because we do get nervous, I’m going to admit it. We wanna get it over with because it’s kind of a little taxing for us. So, if they don’t come, then we get mad because we prepare and then we have to reprepare, and so you just gotta give me the heads up.” After a few more exchanges, the undercover replies: “I can – I could do that.”

DiSanto allegedly added: “Ok. And [UC], I want you to become friends with me. I want you to meet my brother, and I want you to come meet, and I want you to – I want you to win. Because I want you to be comfortable, I want you to be like, I’m excited to help these people. That’s what I want.”

In February 2020, it is alleged, the undercover met up with DiSanto to collect $16,000 cash in winnings from the Super Bowl boxes. The undercover and DiSanto allegedly met again, in February 2021, after the Super Bowl, and DiSanto allegedly gave the undercover $4,000 to continue the arrangement.

The case was investigated by DOI’s Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, specifically Assistant Inspector General Laura Martich and Deputy Inspector General Michael Morris, under the supervision of First Deputy Inspector General Mary Kozlow, Inspector General Clinton Daggan, Deputy Commissioner/Chief of Investigations Dominick Zarrella and Acting First Deputy Commissioner Philip Hung.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Sara Walshe, of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Woman Arraigned on Indictment for Shooting Death of Another Woman in Crown Heights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 19, 2021

 

Woman Arraigned on Indictment for Shooting Death of
Another Woman in Crown Heights

Defendant Allegedly Shot Victim in Head, Then Fled the Scene; Extradited from Florida

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a woman has been arraigned on an indictment in which she is charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting Delia Johnson in the head at point blank range last August, killing her.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This was a cold-blooded execution of a woman who was a beloved mother, daughter, sister and friend, who did not deserve to have her life taken away from her. The defendant has now been apprehended and we will seek to bring her to justice for this senseless and tragic killing.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Claudia Banton, 42, of Allenwood, Georgia. She was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice on an indictment in which she is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. The defendant was ordered held without bail and to return to court on January 26, 2022. She faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the top count.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on August 4, 2021, at approximately 9:40 p.m., the defendant allegedly approached Delia Johnson, 42, from behind as she chatted with a group of people in the vicinity of Franklin Avenue and Prospect Place in Crown Heights. The defendant allegedly shot Johnson in the head, and then shot her again as she fell to the ground. The defendant then allegedly fled in a vehicle that was double parked nearby.

The defendant was apprehended in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 8, 2021 by United States Marshals. She was returned to New York yesterday.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Silver, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Bureau Chief.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

East New York Man Indicted for Carjacking 73-Year-old Woman In Mill Basin, Punching Victim and Dragging Her from Vehicle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 15, 2021

 

East New York Man Indicted for Carjacking 73-Year-old Woman
In Mill Basin, Punching Victim and Dragging Her from Vehicle

Defendant Allegedly Took Off in Victim’s Honda Civic with Therapy Dog in Car

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been arraigned on an indictment in which he is charged with robbery, assault, grand larceny and other charges for allegedly carjacking a woman as she sat in her car with her therapy dog, dragging her from the car before stealing it.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Thankfully this woman and her beloved dog were reunited following their frightening alleged encounter with the defendant. Luckily, the victim did not sustain more serious injuries, despite allegedly being brutally dragged from her car.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Kamani Romain, 21, of East New York, Brooklyn. He was arraigned today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew Sciarrino on a 12-count indictment in which he is charged with second- and third-degree robbery, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property, third-degree attempted robbery, fourth-degree grand larceny, and other related charges. He was ordered to return to court on November 23, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 6, 2021, at about 1:15 p.m., the defendant allegedly approached a 73-year-old woman while she was sitting in her Honda Civic in the vicinity of Mill Avenue in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. The defendant allegedly punched the woman, dragged her from the driver’s seat, and drove off with her car. Her credit card, identification card and therapy dog Luna, a toy poodle, were inside of the car.

The victim suffered swelling to her head and lacerations to her knees and hands. She was taken to Brookdale Hospital, where she was treated and released.

Furthermore, it is alleged, on June 10, 2021, at approximately 6:30 a.m., on Berry Street, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the victim’s vehicle was recovered. A cigarette butt, a water bottle and an iPhone were recovered from inside the vehicle. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the defendant’s DNA was recovered from the items.

On June 13, 2021, the victim’s dog, Luna, was found in the vicinity of Utica Avenue and Linden Boulevard in East Flatbush by a good Samaritan.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Evan Hannay and Assistant District Attorney Christopher Rainwater of the District Attorney’s Red Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Karla Watson, Bureau Chief.

#

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

Brooklyn DA’s Social Workers and Advocates

 

Shibinksy Payne
Director, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
With over 15 years of experience in the field of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and trauma, I received a Master’s degree in social work at Long Island University and have since dedicated my professional career to advocating for victims of crime. From a young age, I knew I wanted to make the world a safe and better place, and the job of Wonder Woman was already taken. My role as the Director of the Victim Services Unit allows me to do my part to explore emotional and physical safety with victims. It also allows me to work with an amazing team of dedicated social workers and victim advocates who provide support, advocacy, and information to individuals who have been criminally victimized in Brooklyn.

What should someone know about working with you?
I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds and feel that it is my calling to help anyone work through difficult times and situations. Compassion, acceptance, and understanding are only a few of the qualities that I bring to my work. I aim to create a restorative experience with victims engaging with the criminal justice system, by creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment for anyone who interacts with the Victim Services Unit.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that the voices of victims need to be heard, and it is important that Social Workers and Advocates in our Unit lift up those voices every chance we get.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
It is the collaborative relationship between the social worker and prosecutors that attracted me to the DA’s office and still motivates me today. The innovative work being done in criminal justice and forensic social work to increase public safety continues to evolve and I want to be part of that process.


Emmanuel DeJesus
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I believe my path began from before my birth. My mom was studying to become a Social Worker as I was in her womb. Though I received my Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature and Anthropology, I did my practicum at a community center in Madrid, Spain. I worked with underserved children in an afterschool program. Since then, the majority of my jobs have all been in social services, though with various communities and different roles. Along the years I have worked with children, homeless LGBTQI+ youth, victims/survivors of IPV, just to name a few. I was fortunate to be able to continue my education and receive my MSW in both Clinical Social Work and Community Organizing while working at KCDA. The support I received from the office was a huge help in achieving that goal.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am extremely passionate about my work and am very open to learning from those around me. I truly believe that we can only create a better future working as a community and not just working individually.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Core values that shape my work are transparency and clear communication. This also means that I will not have all the answers or resources and am open to partnerships with others in order to fully approach a victim’s need.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
My motivation comes from both the importance of the work and the joy that can come from it. The continuous learning that I receive from this work brings me a great sense of personal and professional growth. And growth is what life is all about.


Hyeseung Yoo
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
My father got his PHD in Social Work in South Korea that, after immigrating to America, he was unable to use due to language barriers. It was natural for me to follow in his path to do what my dad wanted to do in America – I always have been passionate towards advocating, organizing and serving those who are disadvantaged and oppressed.

What should someone know about working with you?
I try to be patient with everyone and I am always here to learn, listen, and understand.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
My parents taught me to be non-judgmental, compassionate and to always lend a helping hand to those in need. I do my absolute best to understand, learn, and assist in the ways that benefit the survivors and victims I work with.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do the work I am doing because I know from personal experience that it is not easy being a survivor, feeling alone and that you have no one to turn to for help. I hope that whoever I get to help can find comfort, peace, and support that they may not find anywhere else.

 

 


Ashley E. Wright
Social Worker, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become a social worker?
When I was in college, I worked at a drop-in center and soup kitchen for women. Since then, I knew I wanted to be of service.

What should someone know about working with you?
I hope my clients and colleagues would say that I approach everyone with kindness and a profound level of respect.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and be heard.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
Unfortunately, crime in general and gender-based violence specifically are part of our fractured society. I continue to find motivation when I witness my clients pursue their path to healing. I’m honored to meet them on their way.

 

 

 

 


Darlene Ellison
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
I did not want a job just to be gainfully employed. I wanted a job that would allow me to have an impact on people’s lives. I am not the type of person who wants to sit and wonder if what I was doing would make a difference. Though I have not been here long yet, I can tell from the people I have been honored to be trained by and work alongside that “am I making a difference?” will not be a thought I will have to entertain.

What should someone know about working with you?
I come across as quiet, but I like working with a team.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I have always been interested in the behaviors and mental health of others and I am curious about what motivates people. People’s lives change when they are empowered. And that’s what we do here.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because I want to give back to those that need it most.

 

 


Marianne Lane
Elder Abuse Unit Coordinator, Victim Services

What inspired you to become a social worker?
I went to John Jay College to get my Master’s Degree in Forensic Mental Health Counseling and while there I started volunteering with an organization called SAVI (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention) which led me to want to work with victims.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am 110% dedicated to helping victims as much as I can and to be there to listen when they just need/want to talk.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
Being in the Elder Abuse Unit, I think my family values are what helps me understand and be empathetic toward victims.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I strongly believe mental illness is a topic that doesn’t get enough attention. Many of my victims have loved ones who are mentally ill, and I think our approach to defendants with mental illness is the best way to help the victims.

 

 

 


Melissa A. Castello
Advocate, Victim Services Unit

What inspired you to become an advocate?
My path to becoming a victim advocate began in social services with homeless individuals. I would hear so many heartbreaking stories of broken relationships, domestic violence, loss of income and falling on hard times from homeless men and women. From working as a case manager to becoming a social service supervisor, I was inspired to reach more individuals in need.

What should someone know about working with you?
I am compassionate, dedicated, loyal and determined. Helping others is my life’s passion.

How do your own core values shape your approach to working with crime victims?
I believe that it’s important to be attentive and supportive. Crime victims have not asked to be in the position in which they are placed. My job as an advocate is to provide as many resources and moral support as possible.

Why are you motivated to continue to do this work?
I am motivated to continue to do this work because there is a great need to heal. I believe I have what it takes to heal and to assist.

QA Emmanuel DeJesus

Q&A: Combating Abuse in LGBTQ+ Communities

Social Worker Emmanuel DeJesus, Victim Services Unit

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. However, studies show that those who identify as nonbinary or LGBTQ+ are likely to experience intimate partner violence at rates that are equal to or higher than heterosexuals. In this interview, Emmanuel DeJesus, a social worker in the Victim Services Unit, discusses his commitment to minimize the risk of abuse and provide culturally competent services to LGBTQ+ survivors and other marginalized groups in Brooklyn.

Tell us about your role in the Victim Services Unit. Why are you passionate about providing services to vulnerable groups in our community?

I am a social worker who specializes in working with male victims, including those who identify as LGBTQ. I work with diverse populations, including survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and families of homicide victims. In my role, I provide victim support through a trauma-focused, victim-centered, and strengths-based approach.

I am very passionate about supporting victims of crime because crime can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, or socio-economic status. I also understand how complex and confusing the criminal justice system can be. I am proud to provide any type of support that I can to ease the stress and discomfort for these victims. In this role, I am also privileged to provide training focused on male victims and survivors of crime in addition to training focusing on the LGBTQ community and the criminal justice system.

What can we do to better serve and support LGBTQ+ survivors?

I truly believe that preventative services are critical in disseminating information that can serve and support individuals before they find themselves in these types of relationships. Ensuring that communities across our city have information about services for these victims is crucial for them to know how to seek help and support.

DeJesus and members of the Victim Services Unit commemorate Victims’ Rights Week with an awareness event at Brooklyn Borough Hall on April 11, 2019.

What are some barriers to seeking services?

Some barriers that we have been working to combat within this community includes language barriers and stigmas against LGBTQ individuals. I am a native Spanish speaker, which has helped immensely when working with LGBTQ individuals who only speak Spanish and are able to share their experiences in their native language, without having to use language line. As someone who identifies as gay, I too have experienced stigma because of my sexuality. This has helped me to relate to victims in a greater capacity and enable a greater sense of rapport with victims. Tearing down these barriers has been a priority in my work and in my personal life.

Why is LGBTQ training important?

Providing LGBTQ training across Brooklyn, including social service agencies and law enforcement, is essential in combating biases and prejudices that exist within even those who are supposed to be protecting and supporting victims.

What’s your message to LGBTQ+ individuals who are experiencing domestic violence?

I would like to reiterate that you are a survivor. No matter where you are in your process, there are services and support available for you. One of the best parts of this job is that we are always available to assist with supporting survivors no matter how much or how little time has passed.

If you are experiencing domestic violence in our borough and need help, call the Brooklyn DA’s Domestic Violence Bureau at 718-250-3300 or New York City’s 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-621-HOPE (4673). In an emergency, call 911.