Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has had a historic year, from the first indictment of a former United States President to joining the battle against ghost guns.
Bragg sat down with amNewYork Metro to reflect on 2023 as well as provide a look into the future.
The eyes of the world zeroed in on the Manhattan DA in March and April of 2023 after a grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump for an alleged hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. The moment sent shockwaves throughout the nation with some lauding Bragg for prosecuting the case, while others expressed harsh criticism of him, leading to death threats.
On March 24, a white substance was sent to his office along with a sinister message, Bragg told amNewYork Metro. He said it made him worry for the safety of his staff.
“When I think about that time, as an employer, I think of the people who work in our mailroom. They are on the front lines opening white powder and we have protocols for that but, you know, that’s not something anyone signed up for,” Bragg said.
Bragg also admitted that he harbored some frustration given the Trump case. While he said the case is extremely important, he said he fears his office is being defined by it and that the public will lose focus on the other work he says his staff is doing. He said some of the other work, for instance, includes prosecuting individuals involved in building scams, as well as going after construction companies that put their workers’ safety at risk.
Throughout 2023, Bragg announced several high-profile indictments, including a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme that saw more than 20 individuals led through the halls of Manhattan Criminal Court. The DA explained that the issue has become an important one to him due to the dangers involved in that line of work.
“It’s a basic contract: You go to work, you’re supposed to be safe. You work an honest day, you are supposed to get an honest dollar. When we talk about standing up for everyday New Yorkers, that’s really a basic part of the contract,” Bragg said. “It’s a focus for me because it’s so fundamental to like a stable, healthy community. And as public safety work I mean, quite literally, where you have seen the injuries and the fatalities, but also the wage theft.”
While contemplating the first half of the year, Bragg told amNewYork Metro that he is also proud that gun violence is dropping—by 35.4% in the month of July, compared to the same month in 2022, according to the latest NYPD report. He also said that he will continue to target those who use inexpensive 3D printers to produce firearm parts in their own homes.
In June, Bragg joined several elected officials and NYPD Commanding Officer of the Field Intelligence Program Courtney Nilan to draw attention to a bill introduced in Albany that would make the manufacturing of 3D-printed guns and gun parts illegal if it were to become law. The legislation would make manufacturing a class D felony.
“We take pride in saying that you can’t, you don’t manufacture guns in New York, but now you really can do that. We got the iron pipeline, now you really have kind of a kitchen table pipeline,” Bragg said. “We’re doing enforcement in that space working with the NYPD’s extraordinary ghost gun team in prosecuting those cases, and really do a lot on education. Hopefully we get the bill passed.”
Despite what Bragg champions as his successes over the course of his tenure, he has also received his share of detractors. Some New Yorkers charge that the DA is too lenient on crime as NYPD statistics report that citywide 8 out of 10 people arrested on gun violence are back on the street. While this is not just a symptom found solely in Manhattan, it is an issue that Bragg has been criticized for.
“I don’t pay much attention to what I might call idle criticism. You know, constructive criticism I listen to, I’m out at community board meetings, precinct councils, civic groups. We hear feedback and we respond to that,” Bragg said. “Sometimes the conversation gets unhinged from that, and that’s not productive. So, I don’t tend to focus on that.”
Bragg stressed that connecting with members of community organizations has helped cultivate numerous programs to aid with gun violence prevention, youth activities, mental illness awareness, homelessness and other social justice issues. According to Bragg, the future efforts being made by the DA’s office is to spend time investing in neighborhoods, particularly in regard to removing ghost guns off the street—as well as investigating shoplifting networks and unlicensed smoke shops.
“We’re gonna continue to do the gun work. I think that’s the most important public safety issue and focus on that including the ghost gun and construction worker safety work,” Bragg said. “But I would say that we’ve talked about the big things, the guns, strategic investments in communities, worker safety and wage theft, housing, and then you’ll also see us doing more work in the Public Integrity space…I think always money should be going to the government programs, which is allocated, but even particularly now, it’s more important. So, we’re certainly looking closely at where government funding is going and making sure it’s going to where it’s supposed to go.”