District Attorney Eric Gonzalez discusses decline in Brooklyn gun violence at Roundtable

DA says that many factors contribute to 40% decrease in armed incidents

October 6, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was among a panel of experts who convened for a two-day virtual symposium focusing on gun violence this past Wednesday and Thursday, part of the 18th Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Crime in America Symposium. The event brought together law enforcement professionals, prosecutors and journalists to delve into this pressing issue.

Moderated by Rachel Marshall, executive director of John Jay College’s Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, the discussions centered on challenges, strategies, and policy recommendations. Gonzalez, who joined with other prosecutors from all over the country during a panel on Thursday morning, stood out with data-driven insights from Brooklyn, where his office has made substantial progress in reducing gun violence.

In Brooklyn, gun violence has decreased by 40% year-to-date, following a 30% reduction last year, the DA proudly proclaimed. Gonzalez credited a combination of targeted law enforcement and community intervention programs.

Unlike conventional measures that focus solely on prosecution, Brooklyn is also employing diversion programs for those carrying firearms for protection, rather than criminal intent.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

“In Brooklyn, we’re down 40% year-to-date in gun violence, and last year we were down 30%,” said Gonzalez. According to the DA, these declines have resulted from various intervention programs implemented in collaboration with community mentors.

“The biggest success is working with community members to try to reduce and mitigate violence,” he added.

The DA’s Office takes an individualized approach to gun arrests, conducting deep analyses to determine why someone is carrying a weapon. Gonzalez emphasized that this helps guide the decision on whether to prosecute or divert an individual to a more constructive path.

“We talk to young people when they get arrested and they tell us they feel they can’t access law enforcement, that the police can’t protect them,” Gonzalez said. “We have a bunch of different programs, they’re not all the same, but they are intervention programs done with trusted mentors from the community.”

Gonzalez also highlighted the racial aspect of gun violence, noting that nearly 95 percent of gun violence victims in Brooklyn are either Black or Latino. He asserted that acknowledging this racial lens is crucial for effective intervention and fair treatment.

Another area where Gonzalez is pushing for change is in proactive community engagement. His office employs social workers and victim services to provide immediate support to survivors of gun violence, including therapy and counseling.

“Much of typical responses by prosecutors is to get involved after the harm has already happened and usually after the arrest,” said Gonzalez. “Prosecutors need to be involved with community members before harm is committed. I tell prosecutors in my office that I want the community to know you and not because they are victims of a crime but because they are partners in the community.”

Gonzalez concluded his remarks by linking the issue of gun violence to broader societal challenges, particularly underinvestment in vulnerable communities. He called for long-term solutions that include substantial community investments as a critical part of any strategy to reduce violence.

“Gun violence is a symptom of underinvestment in our communities. Long-term prevention needs decades,” Gonzalez said. He advocated for more substantial community investment as a means of reducing violence in the long run.

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