New courts may curb gun violence

By Sadef Ali Kully

In an effort to curb gun violence across the five boroughs, the de Blasio administration announced last week Project Fast Track, a strategic plan intended to expand police investigations and to expedite illegal gun cases in the state court system.

Despite having some of the strongest gun laws in the nation, both the New York City and state administrations said it was also important to have a strong criminal justice system.

Police said the gun found in last May’s fatal shooting of Detective Brian Moore in Queens Village was a stolen gun trafficked from a pawnshop in Georgia. And following the Dec. 31 fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy in South Jamaica, the gun was not found at the time of the incident. But police sources said the chances of the gun being illegal were high.

The strategies will include a Gun Violence Suppression Division with 200 NYPD personnel focused on illegal firearms as well as shootings and gangs; expanded investigations into interstate gun trafficking; strong communication between prosecutors and police to ensure gun prosecutions are successful; expedited prosecution of illegal gun cases; quicker testing for DNA in gun cases; strategic cooperation with federal law enforcement; dedicated judicial teams to handle illegal gun cases which will begin in Brooklyn before coming to other boroughs; and using social media to broadcast illegal gun enforcement.

“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 has to be accompanied by precision prosecution,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to strengthen identification and prosecution of illegal gun cases can only further enhance our own committed efforts to combat gun violence, prosecute those who terrorize communities and protect innocent people from becoming the victims of gun tragedies,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

A similar initiative was put into place in 2003 during the Bloomberg administration, and Project Fast Track builds on the original program to deter gun violence, according to the city.

The mayor’s office said the former gun court focused on ensuring penalties for illegal gun cases, which ended because state law changed to mandate consistent penalties.

“When gun charges are lost at evidence suppression hearings for failure to develop strong cases, or delayed to the point where criminals don’t see swift justice, a culture of impunity emerges and actually emboldens gun criminals,” said Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), chairman of the Committee on Courts & Legal Services. “I’m hopeful that Project Fast Track will usher in a new era in prosecuting gun crimes, and getting guns off our streets.”

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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