The mayor and NYPD brass Thursday called on district attorneys in all five boroughs to come down harder on many defendants caught with illegal loaded handguns in the city.
"All of us have to better," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "There has to be a culture of consequence. There has to be a realization that anyone who thinks that they can get away with having an illegal gun in New York City, that that is not going to work and they’ll do a lot of time."
The mayor’s criticisms came after the I-Team reported that in many felony gun cases where the law calls for a minimum three and a half years in prison, defendants often receive reduced charges and little or no jail time.
In Brooklyn, for example, just 25 percent of felony gun prosecutions resulted in a top count charge and conviction. In the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, that number is about 40 percent. In Manhattan, 61 percent of defendants were prosecuted and received at least the minimum prison sentence.
"This is without a doubt our bread and butter by targeting people that carry guns and use guns," said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. He said prosecutions, especially in Brooklyn, need to increase.
"It needs to be much higher than that. Some of that is Eric's (Gonzalez's) office, and some of that is the work we do, quite frankly," he said. "We have to make sure we do our job correctly so we present them with good cases."
The I-Team highlighted numerous cases where repeat offenders were released, only to later commit new gun crimes. A review of 2016 gun prosecution data found disparities in how DAs and judges handled cases borough by borough. In Brooklyn, 72 percent of felony gun defendants got lesser charges and sentences. In Manhattan, that number was 30 percent.
District attorney offices say the issues are complex. There are diversion programs, bail rules, judges and juries, and the need to strike plea deals in order to keep the courts from getting backlogged.
And prosecutors stress that not every case can be handled the same. Youthful offenders and out-of-towners not familiar with New York gun laws should not be treated the same as a gang leader with a violent past, they said.
"Let me be clear, there are not people that have used a weapon for a robbery or shooting or a crime," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said of defendants who get breaks.
A D.A. spokesman also said gun diversion programs give many offenders a second chance while helping to reduce chances of recidivism.