U.S. Attorney Olson Announces Gang SAUSA Program Statistics
Special Deputy Prosecutors Have Charged 217 Gang Members and Associates Over the Past Five Years
BOISE – United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today that between January 2007 and December 11, 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 217 offenders for gun and gang-related crimes committed in the Treasure Valley. During the five years of its innovative Gang Special Assistant United States Attorney (“Gang SAUSA”) program, defendants have been sentenced to a total of 677 years in federal prisons throughout the country.
The Gang SAUSA program was conceived in 2007 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state and local leaders to address increasing gang activity and violence in Southwest Idaho. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, together with the Treasure Valley Partnership, the State of Idaho, and later, the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office, came together to fund and support the creation of a deputy prosecuting attorney position, whose sole focus would be to investigate and prosecute gang-related offenses in federal court. The Treasure Valley Partnership, a coalition of local city and county officials, agreed to provide approximately 75 percent of the prosecutor’s salary and benefits; the State of Idaho through the Idaho Department of Correction contributes the remaining 25 percent.
Chris Atwood, the current Gang SAUSA, is a Canyon County deputy prosecutor who works in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boise and focuses exclusively on gang-related crimes affecting the Treasure Valley. The U.S. Attorney’s Office lends its prosecution authority to the Gang SAUSA and provides office and related overhead expenses, as well as training and mentoring. After the defendants are convicted in federal court, they are sentenced to federal prisons throughout the country, far from their gang associates. As a result of the cooperative efforts of federal, state, and local officials, Valley gang activity has dropped precipitously in the last five years. For example, in 2006, Nampa police responded to 211 drive-by shootings, almost all related to gang activity. Now, in 2012, the number of drive-by shootings decreased to three.
Special AUSA Atwood works almost exclusively with the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force. The Metro task force is a model of cooperative law enforcement, where federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies work side-by-side investigating gangs and gang-related offenses committed in the Treasure Valley. Metro has agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Idaho Department of Corrections, Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, Boise Police Department, Caldwell Police Department, Nampa Police Department, and Meridian Police Department. It is through the combined efforts of these officers, prosecutors and federal, state, county, and city officials that area gang activity has been significantly reduced.
Olson commended the cooperative agreement and good working relationship over the past five years: “The Gang SAUSA program is a model for government entities at all levels working together to best serve the public. Through this innovative approach to gun and gang violence, the Treasure Valley Partnership, Idaho Department of Corrections, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office and my office are maximizing public safety and efficiently using taxpayer resources. There is no doubt that we have made our communities safer.”
Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor also touted the program as, “an effective partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the community to eradicate the criminal gang activity that weaves its insidious tentacles through our schools, our parks, and our neighborhoods.”
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a collaborative effort by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and communities to prevent and deter gun violence.