NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City dismissed thousands of prostitution cases Wednesday and will no longer prosecute them.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office wanted the cases dropped, saying the accused were exploited sex workers and unfairly targeted.

READ MORE: MTA To Start Issuing $50 Fines To Riders Not Wearing Masks

Many of the dismissed cases involved the former crime of loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. Earlier this year, the state Legislature repealed a 1970s anti-loitering law that opponents decried as a “walking while trans” ban.

Crimes associated with prostitution, including patronizing sex workers and sex trafficking, will still be prosecuted.

READ MORE: Judge Lifts Temporary Pause On Vaccine Mandate For NYC Teachers And Other City Workers, Who Now Must Be Vaccinated By Monday

The decision was applauded by activists, defense lawyers and lawmakers who have lobbied for changes in the law.

“However, this policy should not supplant the need to pass legislation that would fully decriminalize sex work and provide for criminal record relief for people convicted of prostitution offense,” Abigail Swenstein, a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement.

Some other prosecutors in the region have taken similar steps. The top prosecutors in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx have all dismissed hundreds of prostitution cases in recent months.

MORE NEWS: 'I Want A Proper Education': Some NYC Public School Students With Medical Exemptions From In-Person Instruction Feel They're Falling Behind

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSNewYork Team