Gonzalez says 2017 was the safest year in Brooklyn’s history
By Nelson A. King
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez says that 2017 ended as the safest year in Brooklyn’s recorded history.
Gonzalez, who traces his roots to Puerto Rico, said on Thursday that the year will end with the fewest number of homicides, shootings and shooting victims since record-keeping began, “continuing a historic decline in crime over the past several years and particularly in 2016.”
Building on statistics compiled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Gonzalez said his office is set to announce a reform-driven agenda after the new year that will maintain a focus on driving down violent crime while finding new opportunities for diversion, transparency and efficiency.
“The historic declines in crime that we are experiencing in Brooklyn can be described as nothing short of a miracle,” he said. “But they were not achieved by chance — they are a testament to the dedicated work and smart-on-crime strategies of the NYPD, my prosecutors and our other partners in law enforcement and in the community.
“Next year, I pledge to continue the focus on enhancing safety while putting forth an ambitious reform agenda that will identify new opportunities for diversion, reduce reliance on incarceration and promote a fair system of justice that strengthens communities’ trust and engagement,” he added.
The District Attorney said that 110 murders were recorded in Brooklyn in 2017, nine of which were reclassified homicides from previous years, meaning the actual count of homicide deaths that took place this year was 101; there were three reclassified homicides in 2016.
That figure is down 18 murders (14.1 percent) compared to last year, which had the third-fewest homicides ever recorded, and it eclipses the previous record low of 2014, when 122 murders were recorded, Gonzalez said.
The DA said the reductions in shootings and shooting victims, coming on the heels of about 13 percent drops in 2016, “are even more astounding.”
Gonzalez said there were 118 fewer shooting incidents compared to the same period in 2016 (a total of 287, down 29 percent) and 149 fewer shooting victims (a total of 341, down 30.4 percent).
The percent decreases in these three categories outpaced impressive citywide declines during 2017, Gonzalez said.
He added that while decreases in murders and shootings took place in most Brooklyn neighborhoods, certain precincts experienced particularly noteworthy declines.
The number of homicides in East New York dropped from 23 to 11 (down 52.2 percent), with a 35.7 percent decrease in shootings, the acting District Attorney said.
In Crown Heights, he said murders were cut by 40 percent, from 10 to 6, with a 57 percent nosedive in shootings.
In Brownsville, homicides were down 35.7 percent, and shootings were down 32.6 percent, Gonzalez said.
In addition, he said the Total Index Crime in Brooklyn, representing the seven major felony crimes, was down 5 percent in 2017 compared to last year, with decreases in all categories except for reported rapes (19 additional incidents, or a 4.3 percent increase).
Gonzalez said the number of arrests in the borough is down by over 7,200 (an 8.4 percent drop) for a total of less than 80,000.
Besides these statistics, he said his office has accomplished numerous important milestones and successes in 2017.
Those included: the biggest gun trafficking case in Brooklyn history, with 217 firearms recovered and 24 defendants, mostly from Virginia, indicted; a takedown of the largest healthcare fraud scheme in the history of the District Attorney’s Office, with at least $146 million in illegal proceeds; the dismantling of major drug distribution rings that peddled synthetic fentanyl and heroin; and the creation of a Cold Case Unit that led to indictments for two murders from over a decade ago.
Gonzalez said his office also successfully investigated and prosecuted individuals for public corruption, from allegedly corrupt public utility employees to a construction company owner who was awarded public work projects and “shortchanged” laborers.
In addition, Gonzalez said he spearheaded “transformational reforms and initiatives to enhance fairness throughout the criminal justice system.”
In the spring, he instituted a groundbreaking immigration policy to protect non-citizen defendants charged with low-level offenses from unintended immigration consequences, and has also called on the federal authorities to stop conducting immigration raids in courthouses.
Around the same time, Gonzalez said he put a new bail policy into place, requiring prosecutors to consent to release in most misdemeanor cases and leading to a 90 percent release rate at arraignment.
In August, he led an effort, together with District Attorneys in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, to dismiss about 650,000 summons warrants 10 years or older, which stemmed from unpaid fines and that could have led to mandatory arrests; over 143,500 outstanding warrants were dismissed in Brooklyn alone.
Furthermore, Gonzalez said the nationally-recognized work of Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit continued, with three exonerations of unjust convictions.
The DA has also been vocal in his support for the plan to close Rikers Island.
He has championed Brooklyn’s Young Adult Court, which provides alternatives to incarceration to misdemeanor defendants ages 16 to 24, and helped form an anti-bullying partnership to combat teen violence and launched an initiative to address sexual violence on college campuses.
Gonzalez, who was elected District Attorney last month and began his first term on Jan. 1, 2018, said he remains “committed to promoting a fairer justice system by focusing on individuals who cause the most harm, finding new ways to hold accountable those who can be safely diverted, and using data in creative and transparent ways to enhance public safety while reducing reliance on incarceration.”