PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS – HISTORY AND EXPANSION
In May 2001, President Bush announced Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun crime in America. By linking together federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and community leaders, PSN has provided a multi-faceted approach to deterring, preventing and punishing gun crime.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods strategy for combating gun crime involves five elements: partnerships, strategic planning, training, outreach and accountability. The U.S. Attorney in each of the 94 federal judicial districts works side by side with local law enforcement and other officials to tailor the PSN strategy to fit the unique gun crime problems in that district. Criminals who use guns are prosecuted under federal, state or local laws, depending on which jurisdiction can provide the most appropriate punishment. PSN task forces engage in community outreach and media campaigns to deter gun crime, and deploy grant funds to support effective prosecution and prevention programs. Both at the local and national levels, PSN also ensures that law enforcement officers and prosecutors have the training necessary to make the program work.
On Feb. 15, 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced an expansion of PSN to include new and enhanced anti-gang efforts. The goal is to use the strategies and partnerships with state and local law enforcement and communities pioneered under PSN to shut down violent gangs in America.
PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS IS WORKING
Under PSN, the number of federal firearms prosecutions has increased significantly, and defendants earn significant sentences in federal prison. PSN’s deterrence and prevention efforts complement this focus on enforcement. While PSN has focused on prosecuting, deterring and preventing gun crime, the violent crime rate has fallen to a 30-year low.
*The Department prosecuted a record number of 13,062 defendants for violations of federal gun crimes in FY 2005 – more than a 62% increase since FY 2000. *The number of federal firearms cases filed remains at an historic high. The department filed 10,841 federal firearms cases in FY 2005 – a nearly 73% increase= since FY 2000.
*Under PSN, federal prosecutors focus their resources on the most serious violent offenders, taking them off the streets and placing them behind bars where they cannot re-offend.
*In FY 2005, over 93% of those offenders received prison terms and over 68% were sentenced to three or more years in prison.
*In September 2003, the Justice Department, together with the Ad Council, the Mullen Agency, and other PSN partners, launched a public service announcement campaign entitled "Mothers." The campaign uses the tag line "Gun crimes hit home" and couples a strong enforcement message with prevention and deterrence messages that focus on the consequences of illegal gun use.
*In January 2004, the Department and its partners launched a second series of national PSAs, entitled "Sentenced." These PSAs continued to focus on the pain gun crime offenders cause their own families to endure.
*Also in 2004, a new PSN public service announcement campaign targeting the problem of domestic violence and firearms was announced. For some rural communities, domestic violence is the most significant gun violence issue, and these ads warned domestic violence offenders that federal law prohibits them from possessing a gun.
*By the end of 2005, the PSN national public service announcement campaign had received over $98 million in donated media time.
*At the 2006 PSN National Conference, new radio PSAs developed with the Ad Council and the Mullen Agency will debut. These PSAs, entitled “Sounds of Gun Crime” and “Time Served,” will be produced in English and Spanish and will be officially released in the coming months.
*PSN has also focused on preventing youth gun crime. As early as FY 2002, $20 million in PSN grant funds went to 37 cities to address juvenile gun crime, including school and gang-related gun violence, and to prosecute adults who illegally furnish firearms to youth. The Department also funded a federal Sentry prosecutor in each of the 93 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and committed nearly $50 million to Project Sentry efforts from FY 2002 to FY 2004.
*The Administration is working to follow through on the President’s campaign promise to distribute 65 million gun safety locks for firearms in America. Project Childsafe, administered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, will distribute 35 million gun safety kits by the end of 2006.
*The violent crime rate is at its lowest level since 1973, when the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics started collecting crime victimization data.
*Non-fatal gun crimes are at their lowest level ever recorded and are down 42 percent since 2000.
*The violent crime rate has steadily declined during the Bush Administration, and from 2001-2004, it was on average nearly 33% lower than in the preceding four years.
*In 2004, there were 117,520 fewer victims of non-fatal violent crimes than in 2003, and 201,840 fewer than there were in 2000.
CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR LOCAL PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS EFFORTS
Since 2001, PSN has committed over $1.6 billion to federal, state, and local efforts to fight gun crime and gang violence. These funds have been used to hire new federal, state, and local prosecutors, provide training, hire research and community outreach support, and develop and promote effective prevention and deterrence efforts. The following have occurred since the implementation of PSN:
*More than 200 federal prosecutors have been hired to prosecute gun crime and gun-related cases.
*Approximately $61 million in grants have been made available to hire over 500 new state and local prosecutors to focus on gun crime.
*The national PSN training and technical assistance partners have trained more than 19,000 individuals across the nation who work to make our communities safer. Local PSN programs have organized training for many thousands more.
Supporting PSN’s state, local and community partners is a foundation of the initiative. This year, the Department is making available the following grant funding:
*Approximately $30 million in grant funding to support local PSN partners in their anti-gang enforcement and prevention efforts, and to provide anti-gang training and technical assistance.
*Approximately $10 million in grant funding to support PSN efforts that focus on gun crime that is not necessarily gang-related.
The President’s proposed FY 2007 budget requests $395 million for PSN. The request includes more than $58 million for the critical State and Local Gun Violence Assistance program, which supports PSN’s state, local and community partners in their efforts combating violent gangs and gun crimes.
PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS COMPLEMENTS OTHER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ANTI-GANG EFFORTS
PSN’s emphasis on violent gangs complements existing Department of Justice anti-gang efforts, such as the ATF-led Violent Crime Impact Teams that are currently deployed in 23 cities; the 128 FBI-led Safe Streets Task Forces that focus on organized criminal gangs; and the Weed and Seed Program, which has more than 300 active sites across the country that focus on weeding out criminal elements from a community and providing that community with social and economic rehabilitation resources.
PSN’s anti-gang efforts will also supplement new efforts to combat violent gangs, such as the Attorney General’s Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative being implemented in six sites: Los Angeles, Tampa, Cleveland, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Milwaukee, and the “222 Corridor” that stretches from Easton to Lancaster in Pennsylvania. The department is committing approximately $2.5 million in grant funding for prevention, enforcement, and offender re-entry initiatives in each of these cities.
*Prevention – The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to support comprehensive prevention efforts such as the Gang Reduction Program, which focuses on reducing youth-gang crime and violence by addressing the full range of personal, family and community factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency and gang activity.
*Enforcement – The Department will make available approximately $1 million in grants per community to help support enforcement programs that will focus law enforcement efforts on the most significant violent gang offenders.
*Reentry – The Department will make available approximately $500,000 per community to create mentor-based reentry assistance programs that will provide transitional housing, job readiness and placement assistance, substance abuse and mental health treatment to prisoners re-entering society.