In an effort to allegedly crack down on illegally-owned guns, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday new dedicated courtrooms to focus on firearm cases.
The program, which de Blasio calls “Project Fast Track,” will work alongside the new “Gun Violence Suppression Division” of the New York Police Department. The courts are slated to only deal with gun possession cases, not cases in which guns were used in other crimes, and is expected to rapidly cut down on the city’s unresolved gun cases within the next six months.
“New Yorkers in every neighborhood in this city are united in their desire for safe streets,” de Blasio said in a press release. “To the few individuals responsible for New York City’s remaining gun violence, our message is clear: you will be found and you will be quickly prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
It is not the first time that New York City has had a special “gun court.” In 2003, the city dedicated a court in Brooklyn to try and cut down on the backlog of illegal gun possession cases. The program was initially successful, but the number of cases increased exponentially due to stop-and-frisk searches, as well as a state law that increased the minimum sentence for gun possession, reducing the number of plea agreements. The court was suspended in 2009.
The new gun courts will also be situated in Brooklyn, which has the highest rate of illegal gun cases in the city’s five boroughs. Mayor de Blasio said that the program will be monitored by the Criminal Justice Agency over the next few months, and, if successful, could be spread out to the other boroughs as well.
“The goal of the NYPD’s new Gun Violence Suppression Division and the City’s Project Fast Track is to identify, investigate, arrest and successfully prosecute people with illegal guns. Precision policing – efforts like our violence reduction task forces, gang takedowns, and our Summer All Out – has seen results. But precision policing has to be accompanied by precision prosecution. And that’s what we hope today’s announcement will achieve,” said Police Commissioner William Bratton.
In a series of radio interviews, Bratton said that programs like the new courts are preferable to President Barack Obama’s new executive order expanding background checks. Bratton said that those background checks would likely have a minimal impact on gun violence, and promoted the idea of gun courts instead.
“We’re like a doctor looking at our patient, and every American city, every state is different, ” Bratton said in an interview with NPR, discussing the topic of gun control. “In New York City we’re very fortunate that we have very significant gun laws. There are only 4,000 people out of 8.5 million that are licensed to carry a concealed firearm in the city.”
Image courtesy Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio