NYPD commissioner concerned over possible decriminalization of sex work

A proposal introduced into the state Legislature on Monday would decriminalize sex work in New York.  And while the bill isn’t expected to get a vote before the state government adjourns for the year, New York City Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill says he has major concerns about such a decision.

“I ran the vice division for a year and a half. That is not a glamorous business. I know there’s been different op-eds, some pro, some against, we’re talking about promoting prostitution,” O’Neill said. 

The bill would not penalize consenting adults who trade sex for money, allowing sex work to be carried out in spaces where legal business are permitted and would also allow those previously convicted of sex-related offenses to apply for expungement consideration or criminal record relief. 

However, the bill does not change current laws concerning assault, rape and human trafficking, which O’Neill said concerns him.

“We have to think about victims. Most of the women involved in the sex trade are victims, they’re not there because they want to be, so we have to be very thoughtful about this,” O’Neill said. 

Activists who support decriminalization say that they are also concerned about the victims of sex trafficking and that the bill would bring traffickers to justice.

“In places that have decriminalized sex work, we’ve actually seen trafficking go down because people are able to report their exploiters without fear of arrest,” said Nina Luo.

It is unknown if legislators in Albany will take action on the bill before session ends next week.