HOUSTON – Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson today announced the results of ATF’s Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT) initiative, a 120-day deployment of ATF resources to the Houston Field Division to disrupt illegal firearms trafficking by Mexican drug cartels. The Justice Department officials also outlined the $10 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that have been allocated to support the initiative going forward.
GRIT was developed to aggressively target and disrupt groups and organizations responsible for trafficking firearms to Mexico. The GRIT initiative was a component of Project Gunner, ATF’s comprehensive firearms trafficking strategy along the Southwest Border.
"The Department of Justice has pledged its unconditional commitment to better protect the Southwest Border with initiatives such as Project Gunrunner, by targeting the source of the violence -- the illegal firearms traffickers," said Ogden. "The Department of Justice is using the vital funding from the Recovery Act to continue to build an infrastructure to combat violent crime and firearms trafficking along our southwest border as part of Project Gunrunner."
"This concentration of additional personnel accomplished more in four months than we were able to achieve in almost three years in some areas along the border," said Melson. "The temporary deployment of veteran ATF special agents and industry operations investigators (IOIs) to the Houston Field Division has made enormous inroads into stemming the firearms-related violent crime in the United States and along the Mexican border. We have begun to flush out firearms trafficking schemes and routes, producing tangible results in the form of open investigations, arrests, seizures and criminal case referrals."
The GRIT initiative brought 100 experienced ATF personnel from around the country to southern Texas. The special agents investigated more than 1,000 criminal leads and seized more than 440 illegal firearms, 141,440 rounds of ammunition, $165,000 in U.S. currency, 1,500 pounds of marijuana, and additional drugs and explosive devices. The IOIs conducted nearly 1,100 federal firearms licensee compliance inspections involving 70,000 firearms and resulting in 440 violations.
ATF’s GRIT special agents opened 276 federal firearms trafficking-related criminal cases in just four months.
ATF received $10 million through the Recovery Act to continue to build an infrastructure to further the accomplishments of Project Gunrunner. As part of the $10 million, ATF is hiring 25 new special agents, six industry operations investigators, three intelligence research specialists and three investigative analysts. The funding will establish three permanent field offices, dedicated to firearms trafficking investigations, in McAllen, Texas; El Centro, Calif.; and Las Cruces, N.M.; and a satellite office in Roswell, N.M.
For more information on Project Gunrunner or other ATF programs, please visit www.atf.gov.