For the Manhattan Attorney’s Office, a new focus on gun crime

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Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at how recent episodes of gun violence are testing the resolve of Alvin Bragg, Manhattan’s new district attorney. We’ll also watch a crime thriller at the theater, which is the home of the long-running play Perfect Crime.

Alvin Bragg, who took office as Manhattan District Attorney earlier this year, touted the promise of lenient policies that he said would make the criminal justice system fairer. He often spoke about gun possession cases that didn’t deserve harsh prosecutions or jail time. Not everyone charged with such crimes has been linked to violence, he said.

That was ahead of a series of high-profile shootings that sparked new unease in a pandemic-ravaged city. After a little over three weeks in office, District Attorney Bragg faced backlash over the policies he promoted as candidate Bragg.

On Wednesday he announced a recalibration. He said that since taking office, he’s realized he needs to be more clear on when traditional prosecution is appropriate. He also appointed a new prosecutor to oversee his office’s work on gun crimes.

[After Spate of Shootings, Manhattan D.A. Takes Tougher Stance on Guns]

My colleague Jonah Bromwich writes that Bragg’s change of tone came a few days after Mayor Eric Adams announced a “Blueprint to End Gun Violence.” In addition to laying out actions the city would take, she called on criminal justice agencies — including prosecutors like Bragg — to take stricter action to address gun violence.

Bragg now hopes to turn the page in his first few weeks in office. He began his tenure with a memo directing the 500 or so prosecutors who work for him to only seek jail time or jail time for the most serious crimes. Gun ownership was not one of them, unless there were “extraordinary circumstances”.

Bragg wanted to balance public safety with reducing the harm the criminal justice system can do to the accused. But after the memo put him at the center of the debate over prosecutors’ responsibilities, he reassured the audience that violent crimes were being taken seriously. In an appearance Monday at the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission, he changed his usual mantra of “safety and fairness.”

“I almost thought about it, instead of saying ‘safety and fairness,’ it’s like ‘safety and safety,'” he said.

He now says prosecutors in his office will have discretion in the individual cases they handle. And Peter Pope, whom Bragg hired to a new job overseeing the bureau’s work on gun crimes, said he will focus on who is driving gun crime in Manhattan and where the guns are coming from.


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The perfect crime? It was definitely a showstopper.

The evergreen Off-Broadway play “Perfect Crime” missed eight performances this week, not because of positive coronavirus tests among cast members – a problem that has hampered some Broadway shows – but because of a crime. Someone stole the copper-colored water and heating pipes from the building that has been the home of Perfect Crime since 2005. Catherine Russell, who has appeared in Perfect Crime since it opened in 1987, said performances would resume tonight.

“It’s ironic that the play is ‘Perfect Crime’ and this is kind of a perfect crime – they got away with it,” said Russell, who appeared on the 13.812. times as a psychiatrist. Perfect Crime bills itself as the longest-running play in New York history. It reopened in April, the first Off-Broadway show with live audiences to do so with Actors’ Equity approval after a 13-month pandemic shutdown.

The heist didn’t seem to have “the makings of a sizzling thriller” — a phrase the New York Times used when it premiered in 1987 about “Perfect Crime.” The play involves a murder, a clumsy detective and a psychiatrist. Detective doesn’t quite identify with the crime.

Police also have not linked anyone to the pipe theft, although Sgt. Jessica McRorie, a police spokeswoman, said the investigation is continuing.

Russell said the caper must have started last Thursday. She had noticed a leak around the boiler a few hours before the curtain. Walking back with a plumber at 10:30 a.m., she noticed that some of the pipes were bent. “I said, ‘You hadn’t bent at 6 o’clock,'” she recalls. “He said, ‘People are stealing copper pipes.'”

The next morning someone from the drugstore that shares the building called and said there was no water. “The thieves kindly turned off the water,” she said, but she didn’t realize this until she turned the valves and water came out.

Russell, who is also the general manager of the Theater Center at 210 West 50th Street, reported the crime to police. She suspects the perpetrators broke into a vacant former Irish pub that shares the building with the theater and went from there to the basement where the pipes they had disconnected and stolen lay.

Another clue or another crime? Bullet casings and blood were found on the floor of the empty pub, she said. And on Sunday night, surveillance video showed a man wearing knee pads attempting to kick in the glass door to the theater, she said. “I think he had a purpose.”

She said eight performances of Perfect Crime were canceled, as were four performances of The Office! A Musical Parody, which runs in a second theater in the building. She estimated the loss at $25,000 to $30,000. She said the actors were paid for the missed performances.

Russell said she was ready when the thieves returned. “I have my gun,” she said. “I shoot a gun in one piece. I don’t walk around with a real gun. But I have my pepper spray. I always had pepper spray in my purse. I never used it.”



Dear Diary:

I was waiting for the B at Rockefeller Center when I realized I was bleeding. I asked a woman on the platform if she had tissues.

As the train pulled into the station, she began searching her bag.

“I’ll get the next one,” she said, still poking around.

She dug out some disinfectant wipes. The train was still there and we got on just before it left.

It didn’t take long for her to realize that she couldn’t find her phone. I called her several times hoping to see her vibrate in her pocket but the calls went to voicemail.

Other drivers became involved and told me to keep calling and telling her to return to Rockefeller Center. She got off at 86th Street to drive back.

I noticed that I missed some calls. Then I got another one.

“I think I have your phone,” a man said when I answered. I realized the woman must have dropped it as she searched her bag for me.

I asked the man to give the station agent the phone. He said he would rather wait to give it to the woman herself. It would be safer, he said.

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