Attorney General Eric Holder and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter today announced the Department of Justice (DOJ) and city of Philadelphia’s Violent Crime Reduction Partnership (VCRP), which directs additional federal agents and technological resources to assist local law enforcement in combating violent crime. Attorney General Holder and Mayor Nutter were joined by VCRP participating agency leaders: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, Special Agents-in-Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The VCRP, which was formed on June 4, 2012, is made up of more than 50 federal law enforcement officials, including agents, investigators and intelligence analysts and representatives of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. These federal agents are working in close collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department and Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to prevent and combat violent and drug-related crime across the Philadelphia metropolitan area. During this four-month “surge” of federal law enforcement resources, these federal agencies are helping to build capacity, enhance training, coordinate community outreach efforts, bolster intelligence analysis capabilities and helping plan and execute sophisticated criminal investigations and prosecutions. Additionally, federal funding for the VCRP initiative provides new, state-of-the-art equipment designed to support ballistics identification in gun-related crimes. One such device is called the Integrated Ballistics Identification System which has the latest automation features and 3-D imaging technology, allowing firearms examiners to capture higher quality images of cartridge cases enhancing the ability of the Philadelphia Police Department and its partners to solve violent gun-related crimes.
In just the past six weeks, the partnership is already producing results. To date, VCRP has seized more than 80 firearms and netted more than 300 arrests for violent crime, drug, firearm and other offenses. As federal agencies are working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department in the target neighborhoods, the majority of those cases are being prosecuted in the local court system. The most recent federal case resulting from the ongoing VCRP arose on July 18, 2012, when ATF agents and Philadelphia police officers arrested eight suspects who were allegedly planning an armed robbery of drug traffickers. Each of the eight defendants in U.S. v. Whitfield was charged by criminal complaint.
“In these times of budgetary challenges - when police departments and other agencies are confronting growing demands with increasingly limited resources – the need for coordination among all relevant authorities has never been more critical,” said Attorney General Holder. “This surge of federal resources in Philadelphia – as well as others going on in certain cities -- will enhance our ability to work with local law enforcement by targeting federal agents and others to the areas where they're most needed so that we can better protect these communities.”
“The Violent Crime Reduction Partnership is the next stage in efforts by the Philadelphia Police Department, federal law enforcement partners like ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals, and prosecutorial agencies like the District and U.S. Attorney's Offices, to target the most violent offenders in the City of Philadelphia and bring them to justice,” said Mayor Nutter. “We are grateful for the partnership and support of Attorney General Eric Holder and the entire Department of Justice as we work together to make the streets of our city safer.”
“The Violent Crime Reduction Partnership is already proving to be an effective tool for investigating and prosecuting serious violent offenders in Philadelphia’s highest crime neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “As U.S. Attorney, I remain committed to improving the quality of life for the citizens of my district, particularly for those who should not have to live with rampant violence and drug trafficking in their neighborhoods. My office will continue to support Police Commissioner Ramsey and the city of Philadelphia to combat the violence and other crimes that plague the city. I would like to commend the tireless efforts of the agents working for ATF, FBI, DEA and the Marshals Service who are making this initiative a success.”
“ATF, along with the Philadelphia Police Department and our DOJ partners, will focus on those who have no qualms about diminishing the quality of life in Philadelphia,” said ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Sheree L. Mixell. “Those violent career criminals who illegally possess, purchase and use firearms to carry out their criminal activities, will be identified and targeted for federal prosecution through this very important initiative.”
“The FBI, in this joint and coordinated effort to attack violent crime in Philadelphia, will work with our partners to disrupt and dismantle the criminal enterprises and organizations that seek to profit from violent crimes,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge of the Philadelphia Division George C. Venizelos. “This joint initiative not only rids our communities of criminal predators, but also sends the clear message that federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies are working together to aggressively address the violent crime and drug problems that plague our communities.”
“Gun violence in Philadelphia has taken the lives of many people and brought pain and suffering to many families,” said Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the DEA Philadelphia Division Vito S. Guarino. “Guns are frequently used by drug traffickers and organizations to protect their drugs, cash, territory, and also to intimidate citizens from providing information to police and to deter them from testifying in court. The DEA has committed its investigative resources to the Philadelphia Police Department and is working cooperatively along with other federal partners to confront gun violence and make Philadelphia the safe city that its citizens deserve.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service is committed to supporting the surge and improving the safety of the citizens of Philadelphia by continually targeting and apprehending the most dangerous fugitive felons, particularly those wanted for violent gun crimes,” said U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania David B. Webb.
“It is my hope that the Violent Crime Reduction Partnership will help us reduce the senseless acts of violence that currently plague the city of Philadelphia. By continuing to combine our resources and working together locally and nationally, I truly believe we will improve the safety and quality of life for all of our citizens,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
Earlier this year, ATF personnel completed a similar four-month “surge” in Oakland, Calif., which Oakland Police Department officials have credited with contributing to a significant reduction in crime. The Justice Department is currently examining ways to provide this type of targeted assistance and relief to other metropolitan areas, as needed.
Copies of press releases and related documents can be found at www.justic.gov/usao/pae .
A complaint is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.