The Trace examines New York City’s latest experiment with specialized gun courts, part of Project Fast Track, a multi-pronged effort to reduce gun violence that launched this January. Amid a rise in shootings in many American cities, the initiative keys on a perplexing question: how to dissuade people from unlawfully carrying firearms, and thus reduce the opportunities for confrontations to turn deadly. Some cities have turned to tough mandatory sentences. New York has taken the “swift and certain” approach to punishment.
Those caught violating a gun law are placed on a fast track to appear before a judge. Speed is important because defendants in cases that linger are harder to convict. And the certainty of punishment sends a message to the young people who are responsible for the bulk of urban gun violence. As part of Project Fast Track, the NYPD set up a 200-member gun suppression division that will use a database to track trends and identify offenders in high-crime precincts. An officer from the team will follow each gun case through the system, working closely with prosecutors. The courts are expected to provide evidentiary standards that can give cops and prosecutors a better roadmap for how to raise the rate of gun possession convictions.