By Shayna Jacobs
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — Home Depot, Eastern Mountain Sports and Paragon Sports stores in Manhattan agreed to stop selling gravity knives and switchblades and pay $1.9 million from previous sales to avoid prosecution for illegal sales, District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. announced Thursday.
An undercover investigation revealed that "a number" of merchants throughout Manhattan sold knives that are prohibited under state law. Seven Manhattan retailers entered into "deferred prosecution agreements" with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges.
There were 2,269 knife possession arrests in Manhattan last year, Vance said, adding that in 2009 19 of 59 homicides in Manhattan were stabbings.
"What makes these weapons so dangerous is the ease in which they can be concealed and brandished," Vance said at a press conference.
Through the investigation, authorities went to 41 retailers in the borough that sold knives. They were able to purchase 43 illegal knives from 14 stores, including 31 gravity knives and 12 switchblades, the DA said. Those types of knives are outlawed because the blades snap into place.
Vance, flanked by Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, said knife possession needs to be taken more seriously by lawmakers.
It should be a "DNA eligible" offense, meaning those arrested for possession would be swabbed and entered into law enforcement databases so they can be tracked if their DNA is found after another crime.
His office will next target out-of-state knife merchants who sell to New Yorkers, Vance said.
"We will make undercover purchases out-of-state," Vance said. "We may use the Internet as an investigation tool."
He could not say how many merchants did not agree to the "deferred prosecution offer" and may face criminal penalties.