Profile No. 19

Getting Guns Off the Streets, New York City Police Department -- New York, NY

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Program to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas.

Program Goal:
To get guns off the streets through targeted law enforcement activities and FFL enforcement monitoring.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Illegal firearm dealers and at-risk youth, adults, and juveniles in possession of illegal guns.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
New York, NY.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Michael J. Farrell
Deputy Commissioner for Policy and
New York City Police Department
Office of Management
Analysis and Planning
1 Police Plaza, Room 1403
New York, NY 10038
Phone: 212­374­5390

Years of Operation:

It is estimated that as many as 2 million illegal guns were in circulation in New York City in 1993. During that year, there were roughly 1,500 gun deaths (20 times the number in 1960) and 5,000 people were wounded in shootings. Ninety percent of the guns seized in New York City that year were originally purchased in other States. In an effort to combat the serious crime plaguing the city, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) developed several crime-fighting strategies. The strategies are based on aggressive policing tactics, with a tough new managerial style that emphasizes both empowerment and accountability at the precinct level.

The NYPD gun strategy uses felony arrests and summonses to target gun trafficking and gun-related crime in the city. NYPD pursues all perpetrators and accomplices in gun crimes cases and interrogates them about how their guns were acquired. In a proactive effort to get guns off the streets, the NYPD's Street Crime Units aggressively enforce all gun laws. In 1996, the Street Crime Units made up one-half of 1 percent of the NYPD, but made 20 percent of all gun arrests. In 1997, their ability to enforce gun laws and make firearm arrests was enhanced by a quadrupling of the number of officers assigned to the program.


The collection and analysis of crime statistics, and the conducting of weekly crime control strategy meetings to disseminate crime data to top-level management and unit commanders are major components of NYPD's gun strategy. These briefings are referred to as COMPSTAT (Computerized Statistics) meetings. The meetings are a central element of a comprehensive management strategy that emphasizes accountability, proper allocation of resources, and evaluation of crime reduction tactics. Data are collected by officers and entered into an automated system, which includes information about the crime, victim, time of day, weapons involved, and location. The result is a computer-generated map illustrating where and when crime is occurring in the city. This approach allows police to identify hotspots and strategically target resources. The power of the crime data is evident during NYPD's weekly meetings, each of which focuses on a particular borough. Commanders from each precinct are required to attend one meeting per month. They are held accountable for the activities in their precincts and must report on specific steps their precincts are taking to prevent and solve crimes. The questioning is tough and excuses are not tolerated; from 1994 to 1997, 80 percent of NYPD precinct commanders were reassigned.

FFL enforcement

New York City has some of the most restrictive local licensing requirements for Federal firearm dealers in the country. NYPD works with ATF to monitor federally licensed gun dealers in the city and to combat interstate gun trafficking. Thorough background investigations are conducted on all applicants seeking new or renewed Federal firearms licenses (FFL's) to ensure that individuals who obtain licenses have a legitimate reason for doing so and that individuals with a history of criminal involvement be denied FFL's. If applicants do not meet the licensing requirements, officers meet with them to explain the policy, sometimes while conducting unannounced inspections. Applicants are then given 30 days within which to comply with the requirements. This regulatory function of the police department was originally funded under the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Firearms Trafficking Program and has been continued by NYPD's licensing division.

School crime and truancy

Schools in New York City also have become a locus of crime, with frequent reports of armed students. Moreover, 15 percent of the student body (150,000 students) were absent from school each day in 1993. These students are as likely to be victims as perpetrators of gun violence. In response to the high absentee rate, the department has increased the number of youth officers in the precinct commands, providing much more followup ability in individual cases and better program oversight. School security plans have been prepared for every school, and typically include safe corridor posts that protect kids on their way to and from school. The Transit Bureau has established safe passage cars on more than 100 subway trains, serving 80 key schools and allowing children to ride home free from harassment and fear. In the 1994­95 school year, truant squads active throughout the city returned nearly 42,000 truants to the school system, made more than 5,000 arrests, and confiscated 97 firearms.

In 1997, there were 3,600 fewer nonfatal shootings than in 1993, the year before implementation of NYPD's strategy for getting guns off the streets (a reduction of 62 percent). From 1994 to 1997, 46,198 gun arrests were made and 56,081 guns were taken off the streets. For the first time since 1968, the annual number of murders in the city dropped below 1,000.

FFL enforcement also has been effective in discouraging unqualified applicants from applying for gun licenses and in denying licenses to unqualified dealers. Since the inception of the program, more than 92 percent of the applicants for new or renewed gun licenses have been denied or have withdrawn their applications. More than 200 gun dealers have been arrested and their weapons caches confiscated. The number of FFL's in the city dropped from 952 in 1991 to 259 in 1996, a 73-percent reduction.

Police departments from across the country and around the world have begun to apply some of the crime-fighting strategies used by NYPD, including its gun strategy and data collection and analysis techniques.

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