In the two years since Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, the Department of Justice has provided significant resources to assist in the efforts to rebuild the city. These efforts include working side by side with state and local officials to strengthen the criminal justice system, assisting local law enforcement in protecting communities and fighting violent crime, investigating and prosecuting fraud through the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, and providing needed assistance to victims of crime. Following is an outline of some of these efforts.
New Orleans Family Justice Center
The New Orleans Family Justice Center officially opens to serve domestic violence and sexual assault victims/survivors on Wednesday, August 29, the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) made $3 million available to create this comprehensive victim service and support center, where victims can find the services they need in one central location.
-Today, Attorney General Gonzales announced over $21 million in grants from the Office of Violence Against Women, Office of Justice Programs and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). In addition:
-The Department has made more than $30 million available to the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish to help rebuild the criminal justice system there.
-In total, the Department has made available to the state of Louisiana over $86 million in justice assistance grants (JAG) and Katrina relief law enforcement infrastructure funds.
-The Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provided $3.5 million to the State of Louisiana through the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. The funds are helping communities implement delinquency prevention and intervention programs, hold juvenile offenders accountable, and support juvenile justice system improvements.
Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force
The Department of Justice created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, co-chaired by James Letten, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, to deter, investigate, and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes. Task Force members and partners include Inspectors General (IGs) from participating agencies, federal law enforcement, federal regulators, state and local law enforcement, and community partners.
-The Task Force has indicted 764 individuals in 680 separate indictments in 41 judicial districts.
-The Task Force’s Command Center in Baton Rouge has received and referred nearly 13,000 complaints to various federal agencies nationwide, and the Task Force continues to receive approximately 200 - 300 complaints a week related to disaster benefit fraud.
-In addition, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has referred over 6,000 matters to the Task Force for investigation.
-As part of the Task Force’s efforts, the Department of Justice is currently working with various IGs, FEMA, and other agencies to facilitate database comparisons between federal agencies to identify so-called “double dipping” by recipients.
United States Attorney’s Office
-Six attorneys were temporarily assigned in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana last fall and winter and an additional seven temporary attorneys are currently assigned. Nine additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) for the District were hired to assist with Katrina-related fraud and violent crime prosecutions, and one additional AUSA will be hired to prosecute cases involving gang violence.
-In 2006, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged a total of 358 individuals with drug, violent crimes, firearms and significant immigration offenses. The violent crime prosecutions increased by 32 percent in 2006 over 2005, producing a 98 percent conviction rate.
-Data additionally reveals a 100 percent conviction rate in immigration offenses, and a 10.3 percent increase in drug cases filed, with an effective 100 percent conviction rate.
-Retrospectively, between the first of January 2006 and June 6, 2007, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicted no less than 358 individuals on violent crimes and firearms related felonies, and indicted 708 individuals on drug-related felonies.
Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force
The Department was instrumental in the creation of the Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force -- a coalition of virtually all of the principal local, state and federal components to the regional criminal justice system.
-The Task Force is helping to train New Orleans police officers, sharing intelligence between the FBI and local law enforcement, exploring ways to better harmonize efforts.
-The Task Force was instrumental in the crafting of policies for future emergency public services and continuity of operations in the event of future natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
-Since August of 2006, the ATF has referred cases against over 120 defendants to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution. Those Defendants had approximately 300 prior arrests, many for violent crimes.
-In FY 2007 to date, New Orleans Firearms Enforcement groups have arrested 96 individuals for violations of Federal Firearms Statutes.
-The ATF has assigned six additional Special Agents since Katrina to supplement the six Special Agents permanently assigned to the New Orleans Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT), which focuses on reducing gun crime.
-The ATF is replacing the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network (NIBIN) equipment that was destroyed by Katrina, and will deploy it as soon as the New Orleans Police Department Crime Laboratory is prepared to accept the equipment for installation.
-The ATF re-launched the 24-Hour ATF Gun Hotline, which allows citizens to report the illegal use and possession of firearms.
-The ATF has closed the most significant source of supply of crime guns to the New Orleans area for criminal misconduct.
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
-DEA agents have temporarily been provided authority to investigate and enforce all federal criminal law, in addition to federal drug laws.
-The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force Group, which is comprised of DEA agents and NOPD detectives, focuses exclusively on violent drug trafficking organizations and violent offenders who have a prior criminal history involving aggravated offenses as well as a direct nexus to drug trafficking within the inner city.
-DEA detailed 21 Special Agents (SA) to NOPD specialized units, including the NOPD Crime Abatement Team (CAT), Special Operation Division (SOD), and Major Narcotics Section.
-As of August 1, 2007, a total of 65 defendants have been indicted on federal charges in investigations in which DEA led or participated, 963 individuals have been arrested on various state violations and a total of 142 firearms, 1 kilogram of heroin, 3 ½ kilograms of crack, 3 kilograms of cocaine powder, 15 kilograms of marijuana, 65 grams of methamphetamine, 3,404 dosage units of MDMA, and $194,838 dollars have been seized.
-DEA's New Orleans Field Division (NOFD) worked with NOPD and New Orleans District Attorney's Office to educate and train personnel and develop departmental policy and procedures to utilize DEA supplied narcotics field test kits.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
-Since February 2007, the FBI has worked with NOPD on 93 homicide investigations, 25 of which have been solved. The homicide clearance rate in New Orleans increased 184 percent, which the NOPD attributed in part to FBI assistance.
-The FBI’s violent crime program in New Orleans has made 93 violent crime arrests, including 31 fugitives, in the past 22 months.
-The FBI created stand-alone, “Katrina Squads” in both New Orleans and Jackson dedicated solely to combating the public corruption and government fraud crime problem.
-The FBI is currently investigating over 1,000 Katrina-related cases resulting in the indictment of over 130 individuals, 47 of which have already been successfully prosecuted.
-An additional 18 Special have been detailed to the FBI’s New Orleans Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force with state and local law enforcement.
United States Marshals Service (USMS)
-Since Katrina, USMS has added three additional Deputy Marshals and one Investigative Research Analyst to supplement the Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force, which locates and arrests violent felony fugitives across 13 parishes in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
-Since October 1, 2006, the Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force has apprehended more than 500 felony fugitives, including 27 individuals that were on the New Orleans Police Departments’ Most Wanted List. Additionally, the task force has arrested 15 persons for homicide, 15 for attempted murder, 77 sexual offenders, 37 weapons violators, and seized more than 20 firearms.
-The Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force has doubled the number of weekly fugitive round-ups on targeted violators, which has resulted in a significant number of additional arrests. The Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force is also assisting the Louisiana Probation and Parole Department in tracking down more than 2,000 wanted probation and parole offenders, whose whereabouts are unknown since Hurricane Katrina.
-Additionally, the USMS created the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force (GCRFTF), which assists both federal and local agencies in locating and arresting individuals wanted on fraud charges stemming from Hurricane Katrina.
-Recently, the GCRFTF completed an operation in conjunction with the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office, and targeted “contractors” wanted for felony home repair fraud. More than 11 fugitives in five states have been arrested, closing 15 felony fugitive warrants.