Seeking to reduce persistent gun-related violence in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio today is announcing a new system for handling such cases, creating a dedicated gun court in Brooklyn and a 200-officer police division focused on gun crime, reports the New York Times. Starting this month, those charged with possession of a firearm will be sent to one of two courtrooms in Brooklyn, where Judges Suzanne Mondo and Cassandra Mullen will preside over arraignments, indictments and trials in hundreds of gun arrests each year. The courts will work with a new Gun Violence Suppression Division, which will be made up mostly of detectives and handle all police investigations related to illegal firearms, assigning a specific officer to oversee each gun case from beginning to end. The only additional spending will be $2 million to the city medical examiner, starting in the 2017 fiscal year, to provide for quick testing of DNA evidence from illegal guns.
With the push, called Project Fast Track, de Blasio is seeking to cement the city's public safety gains, including a decline in shootings last year, and to address persistent unease about street crime. The effort follows complaints from top police officials that some gun-toting young men did not face jail time after arrest. Police Commissioner William Bratton described the program as part of a broad effort at “drilling down” on the small universe of those responsible for shootings. Deputy Chief James Essig, who will lead the gun suppression division, said he will have “experienced detectives go out and enhance the initial gun collar with video, witnesses, statements” to build “the best case possible.” He said “everything involving guns” will now be handled by the new division, including cases against interstate traffickers and violent recidivists, as well as those arrested with guns on the street