(SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.) – Chairman Flotteron, Vice Chairman Mazzarella, Members of the Committee and the Public,
The reason I am before the public safety committee today is to request funding for an important priority of my Administration to combat Gang and Gun Violence – bringing Shot Spotter – a gunfire location detection system -- back to Suffolk County.
Everyone recognizes the danger of gun violence to vulnerable communities following the events in Buffalo and Uvalde. We have a duty to protect all the People in all of the communities in Suffolk County.
We are doing that by meeting with law enforcement and school personnel to safeguard our children. Along with police and our Sheriff, we are meeting with religious leaders to safeguard our temples, churches and mosques. We are meeting with community leaders to safeguard our vulnerable residents.
A gunfire detection system such as Shot Spotter will help to protect vulnerable communities traditionally under-served by law enforcement. Statistics show that these same communities are besieged by gunfire at a staggeringly higher rate than other communities in Suffolk County.
We propose to deploy Shot Spotter technology in eight separate communities on Long Island comprising a total of 22 square miles. This area accounts for approximately 1% of the area of Suffolk County – yet it experiences about half the amount of gun violence in Suffolk County. Think about it. 1% of Suffolk County experiences 50% of all gun violence. This is unacceptable.
No child in Suffolk County should have to worry about hearing shots as they go to sleep at night in their own beds. Bystanders shouldn’t have to worry about being caught in cross-fire. Parents should not have to contemplate having their children sleep in bathtubs in order to protect them from gun shots.
This shouldn’t happen anywhere and certainly not here in Suffolk County.
To the extent anyone believes that crime is falling in Suffolk County they are mistaken – this is simply not the case when index crime stats are examined.
For example, as discussed in the recent Suffolk County Police Department report presented to this Committee, following the removal of Shot Spotter from Suffolk County in 2019, “In 2020, there was a sharp increase as shooting incidents doubled.” Last year, in 2021, “Shootings continued to increase another 34% …” [p.12]
2020 and 2021 had highest numbers of shootings in the last 10 years.
In 2020-2021, after removal of Shot Spotter there were 637 shootings – 272 in 2020 and 365 in 2021. 128 people shot and 32 gun deaths.
2022 is on track for an even worse outcome. So far looking at the Year-to-Date numbers for 2022, there have been at least 28 people shot and 9 of those persons have died. That is a 50% increase over 2021.
In the three years since the removal of Shot Spotter in Suffolk County, the numbers have increased drastically each year. Enough is enough. It is time to stop paying lip service to public safety and time to take affirmative steps to improve public safety for all.
There are real people impacted by these shootings. I have met with some of the families and the mothers of young men gunned down in shootings. We have vowed to these families that we will do everything we can to solve these cases and bring those responsible to justice. As District Attorney this is my responsibility, and it is the least that I can do. I will do it not only because I am mandated to do so, but because it is the right thing to do.
This gun violence is unacceptable. This Shot Spotter technology can help us to reduce violence in Suffolk County.
As I will discuss in detail in the ensuing Executive Session, these shooting are occurring in Suffolk County neighborhoods, which have been traditionally under-served by law enforcement.
I submit that without Shot Spotter these shootings result in over-policing of neighborhoods. If police cannot determine the exact location where shots were fired they resort to blanketing the neighborhood to find the source. Callers may have unreliable and sometimes non-existent information on the location of shots fired incidents, which can delay response time and police to respond with inaccurate and incomplete information.
Shot Spotter will result in quicker response times – allowing Officers to respond quicker and save shooting victims, apprehend shooters, and assist our gang investigations.
Lives will be saved because shooting victims will get quicker medical attention. In a shooting where seconds can make the difference between life and death, police will respond to shooting scenes more quickly – on average about 5 minutes quicker.
Lives will be saved.
Shot Spotter will also result in aiding investigations, arrests and prosecutions. I used Shot Spotter along with my Chief Investigator when I was a prosecutor in Brooklyn to make significant cases, stop gang violence and end ongoing gang wars being actively waged on the streets.
I’ve brought my Chief Investigator and his team with me to Suffolk County to work these cases and I’ve also brought prosecutors from both Brooklyn and the United States Attorney’s Office to work these gang violence cases and they all will tell you – We need this Shot Spotter Technology.
This is not revolutionary – Nassau County has it, New York City has it, Rochester has it, Syracuse has it and violent crime investigators all say it works. It’s time for Suffolk to re-enter the 21st century of forensic crime investigatory tools.
To the extent anyone has claimed that Shot Spotter did not previously benefit law enforcement in terms of investigations, arrests and prosecutions, they are simply not correct.
Although the District Attorney’s Office did not previously Track Shot Spotter Cases under prior administrations (We certainly will be doing so once Shot Spotter is re-activated and our investigator will assist the PD in ensuring that all relevant evidence is collected), I have surveyed our Assistant DA’s and we have in fact discovered multiple past serious shooting cases which were aided by Shot Spotter including a number of significant murder cases. We also had cases where the responding officers rendered aid and victims survived.
These were not car backfires or fireworks. These were people shot and killed by firearms.
The use of this life-saving technology will also deter people from firing shots in the first place.
That’s what Shot Spotter used in Suffolk County between 2011 and 2019 accomplished. It should be noted that as always, technology marches on, and so the Shot Spotter of 2019 is different from the Shot Spotter of 2022. The Shot Spotter of 2022 is vastly improved.
Currently – Reports of shots fired must go first to the 911 operator – than the Police dispatcher, before being routed to the precinct patrol cars.
With Shot Spotter - activations of shots fired will be dispatched straight to the sector cars through an app, along with GPS location data and a map of the area streets.
The technology in the app did not exist in 2019 when Suffolk last had Shot Spotter so response time will no doubt further decrease police response times to shootings. If shooters know police will quickly respond to gunfire every single time a gun is fired, they will be deterred from shooting.
Again, lives will be saved and the cycle of violence, of a shooting followed-up by a retaliation shooting, will be disrupted.
And by catching shooters, we will stop the next shooting.
The reason for me being here is that neither the DA’s Office, nor the Police Department has money budgeted for Shot Spotter and, for reasons I will discuss in a moment, the District Attorney’s Office cannot use any federal forfeiture funds to contribute even a portion of the cost here.
Equitably shared funds provided by the United States Department of Justice Equitable Sharing and the Department of the Treasury Asset Forfeiture Programs must be used only for law enforcement purposes, including:
1) LAW ENFORCEMENT OPERATIONS which includes reward money, recruitment and advertisement costs, agency accreditations and membership dues, payments for undercover drug and gun purchases.
2) LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING and education which includes such things as trainings for drug dogs, narcotics, active shooters, best criminal justice practices, foreign languages, constitutional law, accounting/finance, or computer/cellphone forensics.
3) FACILITIES - Costs associated with the purchase, lease, construction, expansion, improvement, and operation of law enforcement or public safety facilities.
Unfortunately, upon taking Office we learned that under the prior DA Administration, in September of 2020 – over a year before I took office – the federal government suspended the Suffolk DA’s Office from participating in these equitable sharing programs based upon a federal criminal investigation into activities related to the prior DA Administration’s federal forfeiture program.
As a result of perceived violations pertaining to these forfeiture funds, all federal funding to the DA’s Office has been frozen since September 2020 and the DA’s Office cannot receive any new federal equitable sharing funding.
Although the Office is able to function, we are limited in that we cannot use any federal funds for Law Enforcement Operations, Training or Lease Payments.
What does this mean in keeping the People of Suffolk County safe from gang and gun violence?
- We cannot use federal funds to pay for Undercover Gun Buys.
- We cannot send Investigators to be trained for Active Shooters.
- We cannot purchase equipment to investigate shootings.
- And, most relevant to today, we cannot use forfeiture money to help contribute to cost of Shot Spotter.
Along with my staff, I have been working since my first week in office to bring the office back into compliance with the rules of these federal programs.
We have spoken with representatives of DOJ and offered our cooperation in their criminal investigation into the forfeiture activities undertaken under the Prior DA Administration and we applied to re-enter the federal equitable sharing programs.
DOJ told us that they cannot give us any time frame for consideration of our request to re-enter the equitable sharing programs. We remain hopeful that these forfeiture funds and our participation in the program will resume, but it has not happened as of yet.
Thus, we have had to cut back everywhere that we can without endangering the public, but in order to keep the People of Suffolk County safe, we need the Legislature’s help.
It should not be acceptable anywhere in Suffolk County for our residents to have to face such a drastic increase in gunfire as has occurred since Shot Spotter was removed from Suffolk County. Mothers should not lose their sons when there is something we can do to protect them. Children should not have to worry about the sounds of gunfire at night.
This gun violence is unacceptable. Shot Spotter technology can help us to reduce violence in Suffolk County.
I come today to ask for your help to bring Shot Spotter back to Suffolk County. The underserved communities under siege by gang and gun violence need our help. These communities are asking for our help -- and we must heed the call.
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