Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas touted her office’s fight against the MS-13 street gang, record-breaking heroin and fentanyl seizures and a historic drop in crime after renewing her oath of office Thursday.
“I’m proud to announce that there was not a single MS-13 homicide in 2019,” the county’s top prosecutor said of Nassau.
Singas’ inauguration speech at LIU Post’s Tilles Center in Brookville came at the start of her second term in elected office and after New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore administered the oath.
The 53-year-old Manhasset Democrat, wife and mother of twin high school seniors, addressed the criminal justice reforms that started statewide Wednesday by saying the aim was to create a more fair and efficient system.
“These laws come with new challenges and high costs, but Nassau prosecutors have been restructuring our operations since April and working with the police, the judiciary and the defense bar to ensure full compliance,” she said.
Singas added that her office was “committed to justice” and welcomed transparency, but “will not falter in our commitment to keeping every one of us safe.”
She decried recent anti-Semitic attacks in Jersey City and Rockland County, saying her Hate Crimes Unit was collaborating with community partners to try to prevent this kind of “despicable violence” locally.
Singas defeated Republican challenger Francis X. McQuade in November after emphasizing her 28-year career as a prosecutor and campaigning on issues that included what she called a successful battle against MS-13 during her first term.
She said Thursday that a collaboration with other law enforcement agencies had led to the indictment of the gang’s alleged East Coast leader — now awaiting trial.
While campaigning, Singas said her office helped bring violent crime down by 25 percent, a five-year trend, and spoke of what she called ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis.
Immediately after declaring victory in November, the district attorney said she would focus her second term on continuing to combat MS-13, along with the aggressive prosecution of sex and drug traffickers.
Singas also said she planned to keep using money her office had seized in criminal investigations to continue funding the county’s first 24-hour drug treatment center in Freeport, which links overdose survivors with immediate rehab care.
“Our partnership with Maryhaven’s New Hope Center has helped provide medically assisted drug treatment to more than 2,500 of our neighbors in crisis,” she said Thursday of the program.
Singas made fighting public corruption the major aim of her first term after winning an underdog victory in 2015 during her first bid for elected office.
On Thursday, Singas told the Tilles Center audience her public corruption team was “busier than ever” working to build cases.
Her first term included former Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto’s July conviction in a corruption case, when he became a felon and lost his law license but got no jail time in a plea bargain deal.
A Fordham University School of Law graduate, Singas is a first-generation American who grew up in Astoria as the younger of two daughters of Greek immigrants. Her parents, now deceased, launched Singas Famous Pizza, which became a successful franchise.
“No one put a silver spoon in her mouth. She got here the old-fashioned way. She earned it,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the crowd Thursday.
State Attorney General Letitia James pledged she and Singas “will work side by side” on issues such as fighting the “opioid scourge.”
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli spoke of Nassau as no longer being a “sleepy suburb” and said Singas had the values and experience to contend with “all the big issues” related to public safety.
Singas joined the Nassau district attorney’s office in 2006 to lead a new Special Victims Bureau.
Starting in 2011, she was top deputy to former district attorney Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) before becoming acting district attorney following Rice’s election to Congress.
“I am humbled by your confidence, motivated by your trust and eager to continue to lead this incredible team in our district attorney’s office as we forge ahead,” Singas said Thursday, sparking a standing ovation.