Reports: Brooklyn DA inflated impact of effort against haredi sex abuse

NEW YORK (JTA) — Brooklyn’s district attorney reportedly has inflated the results of a program for combating child sexual abuse in the haredi Orthodox community.

While the office of the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, has claimed that its Kol Tzedek program has led to 95 arrests, probes by The New York Jewish Week and The New York Times suggest that the number is inflated.

The Kol Tzedek program was launched in 2009 by the district attorney’s office in order to combat sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s large haredi community and encourage reporting of such crimes. The office has faced criticism over its refusal to publicly identify abusers prosecuted as a result of Kol Tzedek.

The inflation of the numbers was first reported April 24 by The Jewish Week in a story that said at least eight sex abuse cases identified by the DA’s office as Kol Tzedek cases actually were reported years before the advent of the confidential hotline.

When The Jewish Week asked why those cases were classified as Kol Tzedek cases, DA spokesman Jerry Schmetterer said the DA “made them part of Kol Tzedek.” He declined to offer further comment.

The Times followed up with a May 11 report saying that it had been able, using public records, to identify the names of suspects and other details related to 47 of the 95 cases.

“More than half of the 47 seemed to have little to do with the program, according to the court records and interviews,” the paper reported.

“Some did not involve ultra-Orthodox victims, which the program is specifically intended to help. More than one-third involved arrests before the program began, as early as 2007,” the article said. “Many came in through standard reporting channels, like calls to the police.”

The article noted that one of the cases involved a cafe owner convicted of molesting a Hispanic female employee and that three others involved Orthodox defendants accused of groping women on public transportation.

Hynes declined to be interviewed for either of the two articles.

The chief of his office’s sex crimes division, Rhonnie Jaus, told the Times that Kol Tzedek has been “an incredible success,” increasing the number of cases that the office has been able to address.

“Our numbers are not inflated,” she said. “If anything, they are conservative."

Hynes’ critics say his office has not been aggressive in prosecuting sexual abusers in the haredi community.

Hynes has enjoyed strong political support in the haredi community, and haredi leaders have often been resistant to efforts to aggressively prosecute sexual abusers.

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