This summer, we have seen an alarming upsurge of gun violence erupt across New York City, with Brooklyn in particular taking the brunt of it. Last week, on National Night Out Against Crime, eight people were shot throughout the city including a man from East New York.
The weekend before that a drive-by shooting in Canarsie left one man dead and another man wounded. Two weeks ago a drive-by shooting in Bed-Stuy claimed six victims, including a 2-year old, Ariyanna Prince.
Where are the solutions to ending this gun violence?
Current gun measures proposed by New York legislators are aimed at strengthening New York's already stringent gun laws. But they do not attack the root of the problem, which is that most of the illegal guns on our streets come from outside the state and are trafficked into our city and from one borough to the next.
As a former prosecutor, I believe a solution to stopping gun violence is the formation of a city-wide prosecutorial task force to go after these firearms traffickers.
Where will we find the resources, manpower, and money to create, staff and run a New York City firearms trafficking agency? The good news is that the blueprint, infrastructure and funding already exist.
In 1971, in response to an overwhelming city-wide drug epidemic and a related spike in violent crime, the New York State legislature created the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, or SNP. Under that legislation, the city's five district attorneys were directed to appoint a special narcotics prosecutor with expanded jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute major drug trafficking crimes across New York City.
Underlying the formation of SNP was the rationale that trafficking drugs transcended the geographic boundaries of the individual boroughs. Guns, like drugs, are free flowing contraband. They mostly enter the city from the South and Midwest and travel just as easily as cocaine or heroin across the borders of our boroughs.
It is well known that violence and drugs go hand in hand, and in fact, it would surprise no one to learn that drug traffickers arm themselves with weapons to protect and carry out their illicit trade. This agency is already prosecuting gun cases, but only where there is a link to drug trafficking.
Almost 40 years have passed since the creation of SNP. The war on drugs has not ended, but things are certainly not as bad as they were in the 1970s. Indictment numbers in the agency have dropped significantly since the 1980s following the downward crime trend that we have seen across the nation.
We could start fighting gun violence right now without having to allocate one more dollar simply by asking the state legislature to expand the jurisdiction of this agency to include the investigation and prosecution of firearms trafficking.
SNP can handle this additional workload. In 2013, according to the Mayor's Office and Management Budget Report, the agency will have an operating budget of approximately $17 million. That is nearly double the size of the budget of the entire Staten Island district attorney's office. This agency, like any other prosecutor's office in the five boroughs, is already staffed with attorneys, investigators, analysts, and support staff.
I spent four years of my career assigned to SNP, where I worked in the Trial Division and the Narcotics Gang Unit, so I know how well this agency is run. The expanded mandate would hardly run beyond the expertise of this office, especially keeping in mind that the investigation of drug traffickers is very similar to the investigation of gun traffickers.
The time has come to declare a war on guns.
As a Brooklyn native, I am sick and tired of watching parents lament the loss of their children to blood and bullets. We owe it to victims like 2-year old Ariyanna Prince to give this a try and push our state legislature to expand the jurisdiction of this agency to fight gun violence. With an agency like this already in place, it would not cost us an additional penny, and will undoubtedly save hundreds of lives.
Former prosecutor Abe George is running for Brooklyn district attorney next year.
This post has been cross-posted from here.