NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has led the way in turning his office into a model of enlightened and progressive reforms that seek to offer second chances, helping defendants to turn their lives around, and offering alternatives to incarceration.
Gonzalez is also the chief law enforcement officer in a borough beset by gun violence. The mass shooting at the Brownsville OldTimers Day is a recent example.
Gonzalez stopped by CBSN New York to discuss a range of issues with Marcia Kramer. She started by asking him how big a problem gangs are in Brooklyn.
“I grew up in East New York in the 90s, and gang violence, gun violence, drug crime is something that I grew up with. We have a problem in Brooklyn. I think we’re making a lot of progress in terms of driving down gang violence. Just last month my office indicted over 20 people on gang-related gun violence, including some homicides and a number of shootings. So it’s a problem. It’s something we’re dedicated to combating, and we’re working with the Police Department to do that,” Gonzalez said. “But we also need to have other remedies. We’re never going to arrest every gang member. We have to have other strategies.”
Gonzalez touted the use of “violence interrupters” to talk to young people to try to convince them to keep their hands off guns.
“Some people ask the question would stop and frisk make it easier or help get guns off the street?” asked Kramer.
“I think that people don’t realize that Brooklyn is actually down 15% in homicides and we’re down in shootings again this year. Not in every precinct but overall,” Gonzalez said. “There’s certain precincts where there has been an uptick. That uptick has been caused by gang violence. There are four or five precincts where guns are continuously being used, and we have to focus the resources of our police department, my office and other strategies including the violence interrupters to go after those people.”
Gonzalez said he’s “confident” the number of shootings will come down.
Kramer asked about social media’s role in gang shootings and violence.
“I believe that we’re going to need to have our content providers on social media take a look at that and look at their internal policies. They should not be promoting things that encourage gun violence,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said he’s trying to improve public trust between the public and law enforcement with his “Justice 2020” initiative.
“We have to make sure our public trust our justice system. They have to trust law enforcement. They have to trust the courts. They have to trust the DA’s office. So we need to do things that promote public trust. And one of the things that we’re trying to do is to minimize when we use incarceration as a punishment. When we someone to jail, it should be because public safety demands that we send that person to jail. Otherwise we should try to prevent people from committing crimes and hold them accountable and provide services to them so they don’t enter the system again,” Gonzalez said.