Courts & Corrections

Driving Prosecution With Intelligence

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s vision of “intelligence-driven prosecution” could do for prosecutors what CompStat did for policing.
by | November 2010

Manhattan DA Office Stats:

Cases per year: 109,690

Attorneys: 517

Appropriated budget: $91.5 million per year

Manhattanites seem to like district attorneys with a pedigree. Robert Morgenthau, who held the position from 1975 until his retirement last year, was the son of Henry Morgenthau -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s treasury secretary. Cyrus Vance Jr., Morgenthau’s successor, is the son of Cyrus Vance Sr. -- President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of state. But while he bears a famous name, Vance Jr.’s path to elected office -- and his ambitions for it -- are distinctly his own.

A native New Yorker, Vance, age 56, spent much of his childhood in Washington, D.C., where he enjoyed such unusual experiences as sleepovers at the White House. (President Lyndon Johnson gave him his first pocketknife.) After graduating from Georgetown University Law School in 1982, Vance became an assistant district attorney under Morgenthau for six years. In 2004, he returned to New York City after several years in Seattle, and was elected as Morgenthau’s successor last fall.

Since taking office, Vance has focused on what he calls “intelligence-driven prosecution.” The centerpiece of his initiative is a special crime strategies unit that works with police and community leaders to target crime hot spots. If it succeeds, Vance may well do for prosecutors what former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton did for policing -- move the focus from process and individual cases to results and lower crime.


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