In the two and one-half years since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city of New Orleans and battered the region, the Department of Justice has sought to do its part to assist in the efforts to rebuild the city. These efforts include groundbreaking partnerships with state and local officials to strengthen the criminal justice system; assisting local law enforcement in protecting communities; fighting violent crime with both manpower and funding; 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 opened to serve domestic violence and sexual assault victims/survivors on Wednesday, August 29, 2007 -- the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) initially 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.
- This center, which occupies a historic 19th century firehouse donated by the city of New Orleans, opened in record time following the announcement of the funding the previous February. To date, the center has served the needs of 139 victims of domestic abuse, providing critical needs, protection and services to people throughout the metropolitan New Orleans area. Services provided by our partners there include social services, protective services, civil legal services, judicial (temporary restraining order) assistance, court advocacy, and police advocacy.
- Last year the Department of Justice announced more than $21 million in grants from the OVW, Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
- 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 more than $86 million in justice assistance grants (JAG) and Katrina relief law enforcement infrastructure funds.
- OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provided $3.25 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.
- To address crime victims’ needs in New Orleans and the surrounding community, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) is implementing a vertical victim assistance project for victims seen by the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. Funding to support this initiative totals nearly $190,000. The initiative will work to ensure that these crime victims receive the same services and support that are required by the Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004 for federal victims of crime. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana has offered additional support to these local law enforcement agencies to assist their efforts in addressing the needs of violent crime victims in the city and surrounding community. Funding from OVC is supporting the services of two victim-witness coordinators who are based in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and whose services will assist local victims of violent crime.
Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force - The Department of Justice created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, co-chaired by David Dugas, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, and the 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, La., has received and referred nearly 16,000 complaints to various federal agencies nationwide.
- As part of the Task Force’s efforts, the Department of Justice is currently working with various IGs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies to facilitate database comparisons between federal agencies to identify so-called “double dipping” by recipients.
United States Attorney’s Office
- Six prosecutors were detailed by the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana beginning in the fall of 2006 for a six-month term, with an additional six prosecutors who have since served two consecutive six-month terms, for the purpose of providing critical assistance as the office expanded its post-Katrina enforcement mission. Most recently, Attorney General Mukasey authorized an additional six prosecutors to continue the office’s commitment. Last year, nine additional Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the district were hired to assist with Katrina-related fraud, violent crime prosecutions, and related prosecutions; an additional prosecutor was hired to prosecute violent crime.
- In 2006-07, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged more than 800 individuals with drug, violent crime, firearms and significant immigration offenses, substantially bolstering the efforts of our local partners to wage war on violent crimes and drug trafficking.
- Within the last four weeks, two individuals began work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana as victim assistance specialists. These highly trained, motivated and carefully selected specialists have been specifically tasked to augment an already highly-successful Victim/Witness Unit within that office and working side by side with local district attorneys’ offices and police to assist victims of crime and help build a robust local Victim/Witness Assistance Program.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana continues to achieve success after success along with the FBI and other law enforcement partners, in mounting a continued, high-intensity campaign against public corruption, thus helping to fuel an unprecedented demand for transparency and accountability in government and to restore confidence in local and state government.
Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office was instrumental in the creation and the maintenance of the Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force, a coalition of the principal local, state and federal components to the regional criminal justice systems.
- That task force, which remains active to this day, is responsible for assisting its constituent state and local members (including law enforcement offices, courts, corrections facilities, and public defenders) who identify problems, obstacles and difficulties, craft solutions, and obtain funding for the purpose of re-establishing full criminal justice services for the people of the region.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
- Throughout fiscal year 2007, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office was unable to prosecute many of the firearm violators arrested by the New Orleans Police Department. In an effort to assist our local partners, ATF adopted many of these cases for federal prosecution. In doing so, the local ATF New Orleans enforcement groups referred approximately 200 defendants to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution. These cases resulted in 109 convictions with an average sentence of 135 months in federal prison.
- As the District Attorney’s Office has become better able to handle the volume of firearms cases not appropriate for federal prosecution, ATF has returned to a more balanced investigative strategy with greater emphasis on violent criminal organizations and the small number of violent predators committing a disproportionate amount of the violent crime. So far in fiscal year 2008, ATF has referred approximately 63 such defendants to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
- In November 2007, ATF replaced the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network (NIBIN) equipment that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The equipment is temporarily housed in ATF space until the New Orleans Police Department Crime Laboratory is rebuilt. The backlog of approximately 400 shell casings to be entered was eliminated by using firearms examiners on temporary assignment to New Orleans from the ATF Laboratory. To date, there have been approximately seven confirmed associations of crime guns to shell casings and/or projectiles and there are an additional 45 associations that are pending confirmation.
- ATF has re-launched the Gun Hotline, which allows citizens to report the illegal use or possession of firearms. - ATF identified a local federal firearms licensee as the single largest supplier of crime guns to criminals in New Orleans. During a five-year period, more than 2,300 crime guns from this dealer were recovered by local law enforcement agencies in relation to crimes. Of the 2,300 guns recovered, more than 125 were related to murder investigations, and more than 500 were related to crimes involving illegal drugs. As a result of that investigation, the business was closed and three individuals were prosecuted and currently await sentencing. The inventory consisting of more than 1,100 firearms was seized for forfeiture.
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Following Hurricane Katrina, DEA agents were temporarily provided authority by the Attorney General to investigate and enforce all federal criminal laws, in addition to federal drug laws. Beginning on Jan. 21, 2007, DEA, in collaboration with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and U.S. Attorney’s Office formulated a strategy whereby the prosecution of cases involving violent offenders, firearms and drugs could be facilitated directly through the federal system to circumvent the revolving-door state judicial process.
- DEA detailed 21 Special Agents to NOPD specialized units, including the NOPD Crime Abatement Team, Special Operation Division (SOD) and Major Narcotics Section. On May 5, 2007, manpower allocations were amended to accommodate a change in strategy by the NOPD SOD, which involved re-focusing on specific targets that were deemed the worst of the worst through analysis of intelligence by DEA, ATF and NOPD.
- DEA also formed a new enforcement group with existing NOPD personnel to further assist the NOPD Major Narcotics Section and also pursue Crime Stoppers tips and intelligence-driven targets. As a direct result of DEA’s partnership with NOPD in these various initiatives, a total of 68 defendants have been indicted on federal charges in investigations in which DEA led or participated. A total of 1,014 individuals have been arrested on various state violations and authorities have seized 151 firearms, approximately 1 kilogram of heroin, 3½ kilograms of crack, 3 kilograms of cocaine powder, 16 kilograms of marijuana, 65 grams of methamphetamine, 3,404 dosage units of MDMA, and $293,498.
- 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 use DEA-supplied narcotics field test kits. These field tests are now being accepted by the District Attorney’s Office as prima facie evidence that the substances seized are controlled dangerous substances for initial charging decisions. The NOFD also is assisting NOPD to stand up a narcotics intelligence unit.
- DEA has detailed a senior intelligence research specialist to work with NOPD personnel within office space supplied by the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. This has afforded NOPD on-the-job training and access to multiple databases and intelligence resources they had never previously tapped. This effort is an NOPD-led operation, with assistance and direction being provided by DEA. The primary goal of this effort, titled the “Targeted Offenders Project,” is violent crime reduction. It will identify individuals arrested by NOPD for murder, armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms since Hurricane Katrina who are violent repeat offenders eligible for immediate federal prosecutions for weapon violations by ATF. The project also aims to collect, analyze and collate all documentary evidence seized from these suspects and their organizational associates, where appropriate.
- Finally, the project will identify emerging violent gangs, conspiracies or organizations operating in the New Orleans metropolitan area for targeted enforcement action. DEA’s Divisional Intelligence Group (DIG) also has sponsored federal law enforcement analytical training in New Orleans for NOPD’s Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CIB), as well as other local and state law enforcement agencies.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Since February 2007, the FBI has worked with NOPD on 242 homicide investigations, 93 of which have been solved. A total of 48 special agents have been detailed to assist NOPD in this initiative.
Since August 2005, the FBI's violent crime program in New Orleans has made: 573 criminal enterprise program arrests, 279 Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force/Gang Squad arrests, and126 violent crime arrests. The FBI created stand-alone “Katrina Squads” in both New Orleans and Jackson, Miss., dedicated solely to combating the public corruption and government fraud crime problem.
United States Marshals Service (USMS)
- Since Katrina, USMS has added four “out of District” Deputy Marshals and one administrative support specialist, who serve on a two-month rotational basis 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 its inception, Deputy U.S. Marshals working with the Attorney General’s “Operation Debris Removal” enforcement initiative have accomplished 922 physical arrests and cleared more than 1,200 outstanding criminal warrants. Noteworthy apprehensions include:
- 5 fugitives profiled on “America’s Most Wanted” - 5 USMS major cases - 53 New Orleans Police Department “Most Wanted Fugitives” - 21 Jefferson Parish “Top 100” fugitives - 3 St. Charles Parish “Most Wanted” fugitives - 42 murder suspects - 1 fugitive wanted for the murder of a police officer - 28 fugitives wanted for attempted murder - 48 fugitives wanted for rape - 150 fugitives wanted for sex offenses - In addition, 29 illegal firearms have been confiscated
- 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.
- The GCRFTF completed an operation in conjunction with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, that targeted “contractors” wanted for felony home repair fraud. More than 11 fugitives in five states have been arrested, closing 15 felony fugitive warrants.