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NYPD, Brooklyn DA's office clash over gun prosecutions

So far this year, shootings in Brooklyn North have increased 28 percent over 2018, Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, left, with

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan, left, with First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker on Monday. Photo Credit: Howard Simmons

The NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office are clashing over gun-prosecution policy at a time when firearm violence in parts of the borough has increased in recent months, officials said.

So far this year, shootings in Brooklyn North, a policing area roughly covering East New York, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, has increased 28 percent over 2018, from 79 incidents to 101, with the city overall showing a 7.1 percent increase, Chief of Department Terence Monahan told reporters Monday.

“I am concerned about the amount of shootings that have occurred in the city,” Monahan said at the monthly police crime briefing.

While lauding Brooklyn prosecutors for how they have worked with cops to arrest gun-toting gang members, Monahan took a jab at the way prosecutors have handled some of the gun arrests and the relatively low jail sentences given to those convicted in firearm possession cases.

Monahan was particularly critical of how 30 percent of the gun indictments for the first six months of 2019 in Brooklyn resulted in defendants being put into so-called diversion programs where they are given second chances and have their criminal record sealed. Monahan also noted that the average jail sentence given by judges in indictments was about 327 days.

“I don’t believe that 30 percent of every gun arrest where a cop puts his life on the line to take a gun off the street off of somebody, should have [the] case sealed,” Monahan said. In four diverted cases, he said, the defendants were later arrested, either for gun possession or other crimes.

In a statement, a spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez hit back, defending the diversion program and indicating the cops weren’t making enough shooting and homicide arrests.

“The real problem isn’t diversion, but the fact that approximately 67 percent of shootings and homicides in Brooklyn North remain unsolved, leaving violent individuals on the streets,” the spokesman said.

The statement also said the diversion programs give certain young offenders a second chance, provided that they have no prior violent record and were charged with possessing a gun but not using it.

“It has been utilized by the Brooklyn DA’s Office for over a decades," the spokesman said of the programs, "corresponding with a steady declined in shootings, which reaches a historic low in 2017, the year with most diversion admissions to date.”

Complete statistics detailing the average and median sentences for gun possession cases in all the boroughs weren’t available Monday. The NYPD has said overall violent crime was down in the first six months of 2019 by 5.4 percent from 2018, including a 13.5 percent dip in homicides.

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the gun flap Monday, noting to reporters that his administration and prosecutors have been discussing the usefulness of diversion programs for years.

De Blasio said he favored diversion programs for non-violent offenders but when a gun was involved in the case “it is whole different ball game.”

“Depending on how serious the incident is, there should be serious consequences … the more we can disrupt the presence of guns on the street, the more we can drive down crime,” the mayor said.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said the criminal justice system had to show real consequences for those convicted in gun cases.

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