By Matthew Fischetti | [email protected]
It was precisely what she was criticized for in her first run for Queens District Attorney, that Melinda Katz believes has been one of her strongest assets: not being a career prosecutor or in law enforcement.
The former City councilwoman, assemblywoman and Queens borough president believes her work in politics and being a manager made her suited for the role of being the top prosecutor in Queens.
“I was never a career prosecutor. So when I came in, the whole world changed, I knew the law. I knew I was a good lawyer. And I knew I was a good manager. And so we had to figure out how to think outside the box,” District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a recent sit-down interview with the Queens Ledger.
Katz said that while the world shut down in her third month in office, she prepared her staff by getting hundreds of computers and prepared her staff to go all virtual.
She said that one of the biggest challenges facing the borough are guns on the street. On her first day in office, she created the Violent Crime Enterprise Bureau by combining the Narcotics Investigations and Gang Violence Bureaus in order to tackle the issue.
“We couldn’t stop. We just had no opportunity to stop. People still had their rights,” said Katz.
The issue of guns has gotten more difficult with the recent proliferation of “ghost guns” — which are untraceable firearms.
“They’re happening in every neighborhood, in every community, all across the borough of Queens County —happening in people’s basements and in their apartments,” she said.
In early April of this year, her office indicted a St. Albans man on over 600 felonies in the state’s first prosecution of an international ghost gun trafficking operation.
Katz said that the proliferation of illegal smoke shops takes time, as investigations by undercover agents have to secure over a pound in order to produce a felony charge, while the Sheriff’s office has more direct authority on the issue.
“We take it, we spend the resources and we do it,” said Katz.
Katz believes one of her strongest assets is knowing the communities she is prosecuting. She has made her Assistant District Attorneys participate in community activities so that they can know the community.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that to be a good prosecutor, you need to know the community. And that has been priceless, to be honest about it,” Katz said.
“It was a priceless knowledge to know the neighborhoods and know the community, and be able to work in the community, and by the way, have the faith of the community,” she continued.
Katz is currently facing primary challenges from Judge George Grasso, a former NYPD cop turned lawyer who is running on a tough-on-crime approach. Katz is also facing a challenge for Debian Daniels, a public defender.
The primary for the Queens District Attorney Race will occur on June 27 and the general election will occur on November 7.