The Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) was created by the New York State Legislature in 1971 in response to an overwhelming heroin epidemic. Under the enabling legislation, the city's five District Attorneys are directed to appoint a Special Narcotics Prosecutor with jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute major drug trafficking crimes in the five counties of New York City.
SNP became, and remains, the only prosecutorial agency in the country exclusively dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of narcotics felonies. The office’s citywide jurisdiction, its special ability to attract and maintain a network of informants that provided entrée to the highest echelons of drug trafficking, and its relationship with national and international law enforcement agencies, the office developed a unique and major role in law enforcement.
Standing alongside Bridget G. Brennan are former Special Narcotics Prosecutors Robert H. Silbering (left) and Hon. Sterling Johnson Jr., United States District Court Judge (right).
The first Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Frank Rogers, was appointed in January 1972, when many neighborhoods had become overrun by drug dealers. He was succeeded by Hon. Sterling Johnson, Jr., who headed SNP for 16 years. In 1991, Hon. Sterling Johnson became a U.S. District Court judge in the Eastern District of New York under President George H.W. Bush and now has senior judge status. During his tenure, the reputation of SNP spread nationally and the office became known for its expertise in fighting both street-level crime and large-scale drug trafficking. As the heroin crisis began to subside, the city faced new challenges with crack cocaine’s devastating impact on neighborhoods.
Upon Judge Johnson’s departure, Robert H. Silbering became the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and oversaw the establishment of the Alternative Sentencing Unit, one of the first in the city, in 1992. Designed to reduce recidivism linked to drug addiction, the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) program provided qualified non-violent, second-felony offenders the opportunity to enter a residential treatment facility in lieu of state prison. Mr. Silbering also started the Investigators Unit, staffed by veteran law enforcement professionals who work closely with counterparts throughout the country. The office emerged as a leader in the number of wiretaps and electronic surveillance operations.
On May 1, 1998, the five District Attorneys appointed Bridget G. Brennan Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York. Since assuming leadership of the office, Ms. Brennan established the Narcotics Gang Unit and the Money Laundering and Financial Investigations Unit and expanded the Alternative Sentencing Division. The office has developed expertise in cutting-edge electronic communications and tracking technology as narcotics trafficking rings become increasingly sophisticated. Ms. Brennan has worked to heighten public awareness of the dangers of narcotics, including recent trends in increased heroin and prescription opiate drug abuse.