Friday, Alabama’s three U.S. Attorneys released a statement detailing their efforts over the last year to combat Alabama’s violent crime problem.
One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Federal authorities have partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “We know that the most effective strategy to reduce violent crime is based on sound policing policies that have proven effective over many years, which includes being targeted and responsive to community needs. I have empowered our United States Attorneys to focus enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals in their districts, and directed that they work together with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to develop tailored solutions to the unique violent crime problems they face. Each United States Attorney has prioritized the PSN program, and I am confident that it will continue to reduce crime, save lives, and restore safety to our communities.”
“In late 2017, Montgomery needed help,” U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Louis V. Franklin Sr said. “Too many people were illegally carrying guns, too many people were being shot, too many people were living in fear. PSN was the perfect program to help Montgomery. So, we joined with our federal, state and local partners and focused on the worst of the worst violent criminals in Montgomery. We had a goal to reduce violent crime in Montgomery, and we saw results. By May of 2018, we saw an almost 16 percent decline in violent crime in Montgomery. This PSN partnership will continue to see Montgomery through this violent crime crisis. We have an obligation to our community and we will fulfill that obligation.”
“Because of PSN and the leadership of our Attorney General, never before have our law enforcement partnerships been so robust,” stated U.S. for the Northern District of Alabama Jay E. Town. “Never before have we prosecuted so many defendants, especially violent criminals, in federal court, where sentences do not suffer the sanctuary of parole. Never before has there been the commitment to resources by the Department of Justice at every level of law enforcement to aggressively address violent crime. Federal prison beds are being filled by our worst offenders, and our neighborhoods are safer than ever before.”
“Most Alabamians are benefiting from a much safer Alabama as a direct result of the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Richard W. Moore. “Law enforcement officers have been empowered to do what they do best and the violent crime rate in many of our communities is going down. Aggressive efforts to take the “trigger pullers” who terrorize neighborhoods off the street makes sense and makes Alabama a safer place to live. Violent crime rates, however, are still too high and we are not resting on the good results that we have seen over the past two years. The American people have been clear about their desire to have a safer country. We are starting to deliver on the promise that President Trump made to make that a reality.”
The Justice Department said in their statement that as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:
Federal, state, and local agencies tackled the violent crime problem in Montgomery by vigorously pursuing illegal firearm prosecutions. From January to April of 2018, the USAO concentrated on indicting Montgomery firearm cases.
Additionally, Operation Triple Beam Operation Triple Beam was led by the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Fugitive Task Force and focused on street level crime, gang-related crime, undercover narcotics operations, traffic stop enforcement, and a warrant service in identified high-crime districts. kicked off and saturated law enforcement in those areas in Montgomery with the largest number of shootings. As a result of these partnerships and the re-invigorated PSN program, in May of this year the violent crime rate dropped in Montgomery by almost 16 percent.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District has formed an array of task forces and partnerships that have seen impressive results. The Northern District office has formed Public Safety Task Forces in Huntsville and Birmingham, both designed to target the worst offenders and repeat offenders who have besieged those cities. The office also formed the Prosecutor-to-Prosecutor Program, or “P3”, where District Attorneys from around the Northern District are given training and direct lines of communication to federal prosecutors so that state charges can be removed to federal court where the sentence does not suffer the sanction of parole. We have dramatically increased our federal presence in every community, every county, and every corner of the Northern District.
This summer, a three-month operation focused on reducing violent crime in Selma and the Gulf Coast region resulted in federal charges against 24 defendants, with about 50 guns seized. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama joined with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to interrupt the pattern of federal firearms violations.
Focused enforcement efforts throughout the Southern District are bringing armed criminals to justice in federal court, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 192 cases with 205 defendants with federal gun crimes in the past 12 months.
In order to increase illegal firearm prosecutions in Montgomery, the U.S. Attorney’s Office joined with the Montgomery Police Department to organize training for each Montgomery Police officer, starting with patrol. The PSN coordinator and the Law Enforcement Coordinator met officers at rollcall at 5:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. until all officers were trained. The USAO has now expanded that project to other Middle District counties.
AG Sessions designated Birmingham as one of the nations’ few Public Safety Partnership communities where the Department of Justice infuses resources to the city and creates a platform for all levels of law enforcement to join forces to reduce violent criminal activity in the metropolitan area. Never before has there been the level of inter-agency cooperation that now exists in Birmingham. The Northern District office has taken that formula and expanded it around the Northern District, especially to include Anniston and Tuscaloosa. Not only are traditional members of law enforcement at the table, but also community leaders, City Hall, non-profits, and other groups with the sole interest of making neighborhoods safe again.
In the Southern District, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued its Bridging the Gap program, a successful partnership with the FBI, the Mobile Police Department, community leaders, and school systems to reach out to ninth-grade students about demonstrating the proper conduct youth and law enforcement should expect from one another during a law enforcement encounter. This program, developed in Mobile, was implemented nationwide by all 56 FBI field offices.
U.S. Attorney Richard Moore and his staff have been actively involved in the Selma area, coordinating with community organizations, community leaders, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, and the public to develop prevention and enforcement priorities, and to establish a long-term presence in the community.
The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline. The nationwide violent crime rate decreased by approximately one percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half percent.
The attorneys said that the preliminary information for 2018 gives reason for optimism that their efforts are continuing to pay off. Public data from 60 major cities show that violent crime was down by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.
Due to the enhanced partnerships created by the re-invigorated PSN program, the violent crime rate in Montgomery decreased in May by almost 16 percent.
The Northern District of Alabama has prosecuted more defendants in the past two years than in any two-year period in over a decade. Now, more than ever, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies are working together to target the worst offenders in the highest crime areas so that those neighborhoods can be returned to their rightful owners…the law-abiding citizens who live there. Recognizing that incarceration alone will not solve all problems with crime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to work with community leaders from around the Northern District to provide opportunities and prevention programs that will not only prevent future criminal behavior, but make such behavior unnecessary in the first place.
Statistics from the Mobile Police Department show that focused enforcement efforts are paying off. From January 1 through the end of September, violent crime decreased by 1.7 percent, and includes a 34.4 percent reduction in criminal homicides and a 9.4 percent reduction in robberies.
These enforcement actions and partnerships are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Alabama has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country and has the fourth highest murder rate. Efforts to fight crime are being hindered by a lack of sufficient prison capacity in the Alabama Department of Corrections to keep offenders locked up longer. Prosecutors are moving more cases to the federal system in order to combat the shortage of beds in the state system.