New York City police officers will limit how they use confiscated condoms as as cause for prostitution charges against alleged sex workers according to a policy shift announced Monday.
And while many hail the decision to restrict how seized condoms might be used against individuals found with them during a search, some advocates remain hopeful the city will broaden the new rule's scope.
"It's definitely a step forward," said Natalia Aristizabal, a lead organizer with nonprofit community organization Make the Road. "But as long as having a condom carries a risk to get arrested, I think a lot of people will choose not to carry them."
Aristizabal said that while the change is an improvement from previous administration's defense of detentions and arrests based on condom possessions, the conversation continues to be a confusing one that could criminalize condom possession by some sex workers or people who may be trafficked.
Through the city's health department, New Yorkers have had access to free condoms since the 1970s. Today, some 38 million free condoms are distributed yearly at about 3,500 locations citywide.
"We have the city giving away free condoms," she explained, "and on the the other hand the NYPD saying you can't use condoms here but you can have them there."
In a memo released on Monday, the Police Department said it would still secure condoms during arrests but for safekeeping as they do with other personal property, which is typically returned upon release.
Any condoms confiscated during arrests related to either sex trafficking or promotion of prostitution can still be used as arrest evidence.
The news was welcome by the de Blasio administration and and the five district attorneys' offices.
"This is a reasonable approach to targeting the most at risk community as it relates to safer sex practices and continuing to build strong cases against the vast criminal enterprise associated with prostitution," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement Monday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. also voiced his support as a means to curb the spread of disease while still committing to prosecuting offenders.
"I have long believed that it is possible to address the use of condoms as evidence in misdemeanor prostitution-related cases without weakening our ability to prosecute serious crimes, like sex trafficking," Vance added.
Police were unable confirm at the time of publication when the change in police would go into effect.