The city medical examiner’s office is creating a first-of-its-kind unit dedicated solely to analyzing DNA from gun crimes.
Mayor Eric Adams and Chief Medical Examiner Jason Graham shared their plans for what the mayor is calling “modern day CSI” at a press conference Thursday.
“We’re saying to those who are committing gun crimes: science is coming for you, and we’re going to use the science to get you off our street,” Adams said.
The city started to collect and test DNA from every gun recovered by police several years ago, as WNYC and the Trace reported in 2017. But until now forensic scientists were stretched thin between multiple types of cases.
Graham said 24 analysts in the new, $2.5 million unit will focus exclusively on firearms, which should close cases more quickly.
"These proceedings can result in the exoneration of someone who's innocent or the conviction of someone who's guilty," he said. “Faster turnaround times also speed answers for victims, families and our communities, which are affected by the gun violence epidemic.”
It currently takes up to 60 days to do DNA testing for gun cases, according to the mayor’s office. The goal for the new unit is to get that time down to 30 days or less.
The examiner's office is hoping to have the team fully staffed by this fall and trained within a year. Graham says they have reviewed more than 300 applications and have selected 10 members of the team.
Applications are still open for the unit, and the mayor made his pitch to “come join Team New York” in a public service announcement shared on social media.
The gun DNA unit is one of multiple strategies the city has unveiled in recent weeks to curb gun violence, as the city heads into the summer months, when shootings tend to spike. The mayor filed a lawsuit yesterday against five gun dealers for allegedly selling illegal ghost guns, in tandem with a suit filed by Attorney General Letitia James against 10 online retailers. Adams has also been working with lawmakers in Albany to find workarounds to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which struck down New York’s strict concealed carry law. And earlier this month, the mayor tapped a prominent street outreach worker to serve as his new gun violence prevention czar.
Police data show shootings are down 12% compared to this time last year, though they’re still higher than before the pandemic. Adams has also touted that the police department has taken 3,300 guns off the streets this year.
“We are damming every river that needs to be dammed, and the lack of having the right technology was a river that was allowing guns to flow into the sea of violence,” the mayor said at Thursday’s press conference. “Today, we are damming that river and making sure that we have the flow of technology to get dangerous people off our streets.”