For Immediate Release - September 13, 2010

GOVERNOR PATRICK AND BRISTOL COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS HIGHLIGHT NEW LAW TO CURB ILLEGAL GUN USE

Tactics have reduced reports of shots fired in Fall River and New Bedford by one-third

Governor Deval Patrick met with members of the Bristol County law enforcement community this morning to highlight a new tool they fought for to help address urban violence.

Governor Deval Patrick met with members of the Bristol County law enforcement community this morning to highlight a new tool they fought for to help address urban violence. (Photo credit: Matt Bennett/Governor's Office). View additional photos.

FALL RIVER - Monday, September 13, 2010 - Governor Deval Patrick met with members of the Bristol County law enforcement community this morning to highlight a new tool they fought for to help address urban violence.

One provision of the law, "An Act Reforming the Administrative Procedures Relative to Criminal Offender Record Information and Pre and Post Trial Supervised Release," allows District Attorneys the ability to request dangerousness hearings for individuals charged with carrying an illegal firearm, illegally possessing a machine gun or sawed off shotgun, a high capacity firearm or possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony. Dangerousness hearings allow a court to hold defendants without bail before a trial on an assessment of the defendant's risk to the community.

"This law provides tools that our law enforcement officials can use to keep our streets safe for our residents across the Commonwealth," said Governor Patrick. "Thanks to our partners in law enforcement, the Legislature and countless other supporters, for any violent felony involving a firearm, there will now be a presumption of dangerousness that will keep the accused held until the trial."

Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter, who advocated for the law, instructed all of his prosecutors to request dangerousness hearings at nearly all arraignments involving defendants charged with illegally possessing a firearm in public beginning in 2007. In two years, New Bedford realized a 33% decline in reports of shots fired and Fall River's decline was 34%. This bill made the dangerousness provision state law.

"I would like to thank Governor Patrick for his commitment to Bristol County and to the fight against gun violence, both of which were once demonstrated with his appearance at this forum today," District Attorney Sutter said. "In my view, this was an important conversation with community and law enforcement leaders about what we have accomplished with the passage of this legislation and what more needs to be done to reduce the access to illegal firearms, which is at the center of the gun violence problem."

This dangerousness provision is just one tool within the crime prevention package Governor Patrick signed into law this year to help take guns off streets and give law enforcement authorities the tools to stop gang activity already occurring in our communities. The law is a strong anti-crime package that reforms the state's criminal offender records information system (CORI) to improve employment opportunities and reduces recidivism by allowing non-violent offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences to receive supervision and training before being released back into the community.

"It was a huge victory that the strongest possible language, which I included in the Senate version of this bill was signed into law. Thankfully, those special interest groups that tried to weaken the bill were defeated. Law enforcement officials now have the proper tools to keep violent criminals off the streets and protect the public. I applaud all those who joined us in this effort," said Senator Mark Montigny.

"As legislators, our first responsibility to those we serve is to help keep them safe. When the courts required a clear statement from the Legislature before allowing Bristol County prosecutors this tool to keep criminals with guns off our streets, we acted, and everyone across Massachusetts is safer as a result," said Representative Antonio Cabral.

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