Prostitution has been illegal in New York City since the Dutch walked the streets of then-New Amsterdam in the 17th- century, but on Wednesday Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced he will no longer prosecute prostitution cases.
Vance, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday that "criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer."
In addition, unlicensed massages, will no longer be pursued by the DA's office. While believed to be the first of its kind decision by a prosecutor's office in the state of New York, the district attorneys in three of the city's other boroughs -- Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx -- have all dismissed hundreds of prostitution cases in recent months.
"I think it’s really offensive to women," says Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican who was the GOP nominee for mayor of New York in 2017, "I think that the city can do much better to create true economic opportunities for women and all, but they have to reverse these policies that are driving up crime that are really ruining our quality of life."
In a tweet last December, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) voiced her support for the decriminalization of prostitution, saying "sex work is work."
Malliotakis, who represents the city's fifth borough, Staten Island, as well as parts of South Brooklyn, says the left's answer to every rising crime is to decriminalize that crime. "It sends a wrong message to children," says Malliotakis.
Prostitution is still technically illegal in Manhattan, and the DA’s office will continue to prosecute other crimes related to sex work, such as sex trafficking.
The decision to decriminalize sex work comes as the number of sex trafficking victims in New York State continues to rise from 803 in 2017 to 1,155 in 2019. Across the United States, the number of cases has skyrocketed from 3,598 in 2014 to 8,248 in 2019, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
"I think that we’re not doing enough as a government to go after those who are committing sex trafficking," says Malliotakis. "Just coming back from the southern border, there's a real issue here, where there is human trafficking, sex trafficking, people being sold into involuntary servitude. This is happening within the United States, right over the border."
Manhattan joins Baltimore and Philadelphia as jurisdictions that have declined to prosecute sex workers.
The Associated Press contributed reporting