The New York City Police Department announced Monday its officers will no longer seize unused condoms as evidence from suspected sex workers.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the change was adopted following discussions with prosecutors and public health experts.
"This is a reasonable approach to targeting the most at risk community as it relates to safer sex practices and continuing to build strong cases against the vast criminal enterprise associated with prostitution," said Bratton in a statement.
The NYPD said its leadership "will circulate a directive that will codify the policy change."
In most streetwalking arrests "condoms will be secured for safe keeping along with other items of personal property and returned to individuals after they are released from custody," the department said.
The Associated Press reports the NYPD busts approximately 2,500 people a year for allegedly offering sex for money. Fear of arrest prompted some sex workers to avoid carrying condoms, according to surveys conducted by the city and Human Rights Watch.
The NYPD will continued to hold some condoms as evidence, such as those “confiscated in other prostitution-related arrests such as promoting prostitution and sex trafficking cases,” the department's release said.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Monday press conference, according to a transcript provided by his office.
“I applaud the NYPD and I last year supported the legislation on a state level that would achieve the same idea,” de Blasio said. “A policy that actually inhibits people from safe sex is a mistake and is dangerous. And there’s a number of ways that you go about putting together evidence.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. agreed, saying in a statement the policy change “will enhance public health and help curb the spread of diseases.”
The city’s Department of Health distributes approximately 38 million free condoms a year, The Staten Island Advance reported in February. Organizations can place online orders for free condoms and personal lubricants.