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NYPD Condom Policy Shift Doesn't Fix Major Issues, Advocates Say

By Katie Honan | May 15, 2014 4:41pm
 There are still many other ways condoms can be used against victims, advocates say.
There are still many other ways condoms can be used against victims, advocates say.
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QUEENS — A new policy shift from the NYPD that limits the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases doesn't go far enough to protect vulnerable residents and make sure health and safety are priorities, some advocates say. 

The NYPD announced Monday that condoms confiscated during prostitution-related arrests will no longer automatically be used as evidence and will instead be kept with other personal property, according to the NYPD.

But police officers can still use condoms as evidence in arrests for promoting prostitution and in sex trafficking cases, which concerned some advocates.

"The new policy effectively says the NYPD will not use condoms as evidence of prostitution — unless they want to," said Sharon Stapel, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, which works with the city's LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities.

The new policy gives officers "entirely too much discretion when interacting with LGBTQ people," she said.

Many say they are regularly stopped or harassed by police, according to the AVP. 

Sienna Baskin, the co-director of The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, said in a statement on Monday that it "continues to send a message that it is unsafe to carry condoms."

There are more than 13 other offenses and civil proceedings that can still use condoms as evidence, she said, and she's still concerned the police will take them from the most vulnerable to exploitation — sex trafficking victims and young people.

The NYPD did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Other groups said that the change is positive, although more still needs to be done.

"It's a step in the right direction," said Natalia Aristixabal-Betancur, a spokeswoman from Make the Road New York. "It doesn't mean the most comprehensive change of practices."

She said her organization hopes to continue to work with the police and the city's district attorney's to further amend the policy.

"What we want is people to feel safe in having as many condoms as they want, and if they have an interaction with police then condoms won't be used against them," she said.