As Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg says he's trying to do whatever he can to reduce shootings and murders in his borough, he points to the issue of gun violence as a national crisis.
"The Q train here, our trains, you think about Buffalo, our supermarkets, you think about Texas, our schools," said Bragg, “this violence is tragic, sad and unacceptable."
His office is handling the prosecution of alleged subway shooter Andrew Abdullah, accused of killing a man on the Q train in a random attack on May 22.
Bragg, who bills himself as a progressive prosecutor, has been the district attorney for five months. He had a rocky start at the beginning of the year when he said he would not prosecute certain cases or seek prison time on non-violent offenses, including some involving gun possession.
But Bragg pushes back against criticism that he's soft on crime and a part of the violence problem. He argues he has been smart and data-driven on crime for more than 20 years as a prosecutor.
"That's where I have said the focus of this office should be," stated Bragg. "It should not be on people who are in need, and doing something out of an addiction and of course they can get treatment on a lower-level offense. It needs to be on drivers of violence, and that is where it has always been for me. That's what we were trying to articulate at the beginning of the year."
The Manhattan District Attorney's Office says there have been 198 cases with the top charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the 2nd degree arraigned so far this year. There were 176 such cases last year during the same period.
Across the five boroughs, there have been several high profile and disturbing murders this year. However, shootings and murders are slightly down from last year during the same time period. But those numbers are drastically up from four years ago.
In Manhattan this year, the northern part of the borough has recorded at least 15 murders, but southern Manhattan, usually considered safer, has at least 16 homicides — a 100% increase from last year during the same period.
"The career prosecutors in my office are coming to work every day and we are focused like a laser on violent crime," said Bragg.
Although prosecutors are not the ones physically making arrests, they work hand-in-hand with police on investigations. Bragg says complaints that some city district attorneys are not aggressive enough on gun cases and subway crime is off base.
"People are getting on the train and coming to work in the D.A. office. So we are processing it through all of those lenses and it is sobering,” said Bragg, adding,
"I've known gun crime since I was 15 and had a gun pointed at me."
He says that was one of the reasons why he became a prosecutor.