New York: "A Special Court for Gun Crimes Is Created for Five Neighborhoods"


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cuchulainn
May 8, 2003, 09:10 AM
The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/08/nyregion/08GUN.html?ex=1053057600&en=617c12232cc9115f&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLEA Special Court for Gun Crimes Is Created for Five Neighborhoods

By ROBERT F. WORTH

In an unusual new effort aimed at reducing gun violence, the city has established a special court in Brooklyn to handle all felony gun possession cases from the five Brooklyn neighborhoods with the heaviest concentration of shootings in the city, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday.

The new court, which began hearing cases on April 28, is intended to consolidate and speed up the processing of gun cases in a violent stretch of central Brooklyn that accounted for 56 percent of all shootings in the borough last year, Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference at City Hall.

A single judge and three prosecutors will handle all cases in which illegal gun possession is the top charge, and new rules will require the cases to be disposed of within four months — two months faster than the current standard in Brooklyn, the mayor said. Until last week, those cases were handled by hundreds of different prosecutors and dozens of judges, he added.

Judge Jonathan Lippman, the state's chief administrative judge, who was at the news conference with Mr. Bloomberg, said, "Now, gun cases get mixed in with more serious and less serious cases and can fall between the cracks of the criminal courts."

The new court grew out of Operation Spotlight, a law enforcement effort begun last year to focus on small groups of offenders who commit a disproportionate number of crimes, the mayor said. The gun court will work closely with the Police Department, which will begin a special training program to gather information about guns and improve the quality of gun arrests and the cases that grow out of them in five central Brooklyn precincts, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. Crime rates have been high in those areas for decades, Mr. Kelly said, in part because of gangs.

The gun court will handle cases from the 67th, 73rd, 75th, 77th and 79th Precincts, an area that includes parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Brownsville and East New York.

The Brooklyn gun court is expected to handle 400 cases a year, and will operate from the state criminal court building at 120 Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn, without incurring any new costs for the city or state, Judge Lippman said. Its first presiding judge is Acting Justice Vincent Del Giudice of State Supreme Court, who was appointed to the State Court of Claims last year by Gov. George E. Pataki.

Eventually, similar gun courts are expected to open in other boroughs, city officials said.

Gun cases can be especially dangerous for the police, the mayor said, a fact that was underlined less than two months ago, when two undercover police detectives, James V. Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews, were shot and killed during a gun-buying operation on Staten Island.

"Given the extraordinary risks of bringing gun cases to court, we must make extraordinary efforts to make sure that justice is served," Mr. Bloomberg said.

The new gun court follows several other specialized courts created in the city over the past decade, including the probation violation courts that were established in February in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The new court is not intended to mete out heavier or lighter sentences for gun offenders, officials said, but to ensure that gun crimes receive the attention they deserve. Mr. Bloomberg said, however, that "part of the problem" with the current system is that many judges have found ways to avoid imposing a one-year minimum prison sentence for illegal gun possession.

The nation's first gun court was established in Providence, R.I., in 1994. Gun cases in that jurisdiction are now handled much faster and are more likely to result in prison sentences, according to a Web site maintained by the federal Office of Justice Programs.

Some defense lawyers have expressed concern about gun courts, saying they tend to presume guilt and result in harsher sentences.

Over all, crime has dropped sharply over the past year in the five precincts, as it has in the rest of the city, Mr. Kelly said, and shootings are down in all but the 67th Precinct. Citywide, gun arrests since January are 5 percent higher than in the comparable period last year, Mr. Kelly said.

Nonetheless, last year the five precincts accounted for 60 percent of all gun arrests in Brooklyn, and 25 percent of all shootings citywide, Mr. Kelly said.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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Chipper
May 8, 2003, 09:46 AM
Isn't this like the War on Some Drugs? Didn't NY have separate "drug courts"?

Chipper

Ol' Badger
May 8, 2003, 09:56 AM
Lovely. What next? Special prison for gun offenders.:rolleyes:

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