BY CITY COUNCILMAN RORY LANCMAN
Last year didn’t start out well for crime reduction. Shootings were up slightly from the same period the previous year.
How then did we end 2015 with fewer shootings than ever before, with crime throughout the city reaching historic lows in almost all categories? Indeed, our city is safer than ever before, thanks to the dedication of our police officers and additional funding for our cops from the City Council.
But perhaps the biggest factor in reducing crime goes to the NYPD’s use of targeted strategies and new technologies, like ShotSpotter, to aggressively investigate all shootings and get guns off our streets.
This week, I was proud to stand with the mayor, the police commissioner, all five district attorneys and both U.S. attorneys to announce the newest blueprint for further getting guns off our streets.
Project Fast Track, a targeted, systemwide focus on the limited number of individuals who are responsible for gun violence in our city, will ensure that our murder rate, which increased slightly this year, gets lower than it has ever been before. Project Fast Track is a partnership between the NYPD, the Office of Court Administration and district attorneys to get guns off our streets before they kill by aggressively investigating and prosecuting gun possession.
Currently, these cases take far too long to wind their way through the cases, and they are lost all too often because of inadequate evidence.
The creation of a Gun Violence Suppression Division in the NYPD will ensure that our officers step up their gun investigations. This 200 officer strong unit will focus on illegal firearms investigations, as well as shootings and gangs. These officers will work directly with district attorneys’ offices to improve evidence gathering and police training, to ensure that cases are successful. Additionally, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will receive $2 million a year to quickly test DNA from all illegal guns. These dedicated efforts mean that when a gun case goes to court, it will be the strongest case possible. Fewer violent criminals will be able to walk on a technicality.
Equally important, however, is the swift justice component of Project Fast Track. Our city’s speedy trial crisis means that offenders can sometimes spend two years walking around on our streets before they get convicted and sent to prison. Too many gun criminals enjoy relative impunity, occasionally spending a night or two in jail but failing to see appropriate consequences for their dangerous actions. By creating a dedicated judicial team to handle illegal gun cases in Brooklyn, these cases will be processed rapidly and violent criminals will be put behind bars.
Project Fast Track is starting in Brooklyn because Brooklyn has some of the highest rates of gun violence in our city, and a much lower conviction rate than other boroughs. In Queens, District Attorney Brown has aggressively prosecuted gun cases for many years, and has the highest prison rate in any borough. Project Fast Track will still help Queens, however. Better police procedures and evidence testing will help cases in every borough. Next year, we want to have the lowest murder rate this city has ever seen. Project Fast Track can help make that happen.
City Councilman Rory I. Lancman represents the 24th Council District and chairs the Committee on Courts & Legal Services.