Reducing violent crime continues to be a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. We added resources to this effort by creating a Violent and Organized Crime Unit and by increasing the number of prosecutions for firearms offenses in our Detroit and Flint offices. We are aggressively prosecuting violent crime to our capacity, and obtaining lengthy prison sentences for offenders. But in these times of limited budgets, we are looking for creative solutions as well.
One initiative, inspired by media reports that 48205 was Detroit’s deadliest zip code, has been to review for potential federal prosecution every arrest for a firearm offense in that zip code area, located on Detroit’s east side. Generally, federal prosecution brings with it stiffer sentences than prosecution in the state court system, though federal prosecutions are limited to violations of federal law, such as felon in possession of a firearm or possession of a prohibited weapon, such as a stolen firearm or a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Gillooly launched Project 48205 in September as a thirty-day pilot program to help us study crime trends. The project remains ongoing, in a continuing effort to assist local law enforcement in the area.
To date, more than 65 arrests involving firearms occurring in 48205 have been reviewed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to determine whether federal prosecution was warranted. Very few of those cases – only three – involved an offense that could be prosecuted federally. These crimes were committed by individuals with extensive criminal records involving guns or violence. The remaining cases were referred for state prosecution because the conduct did not amount to a federal offense or was committed by a juvenile.
Although few federal prosecutions have resulted, Project 48205 has helped law enforcement to identify issues for enforcement and prevention efforts. For example, we have learned that a significant number of gun crimes in this area are committed by juveniles, whom we typically do not prosecute federally. This observation confirms the need for increased youth violence prevention efforts, which are already underway in the 48205 area as part of the National Forum on Youth Violence. The City of Detroit, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, has developed an extensive plan for reducing youth violence as one of six cities participating in the National Forum. The 48205 zip code area is part of the pilot area for the City of Detroit’s plan. New data about juvenile gun crime will inform the implementation of the plan.
We have also observed that this area is home to a number of individuals on parole or probation or returning to the community from prison. As a result, on the evening of November 21, we convened a face-to-face meeting in the 48205 zip code area, calling in citizens who have recently returned to the community from prison, to meet with law enforcement officials. Data tells us that two-thirds of all offenders will commit new crimes. We discussed with the returning citizens the serious consequences of committing new crimes, such as the stiff federal penalties for gun and drug offenses, the absence of parole in the federal system, and the housing of prisoners at distant locations around the country, limiting visits from family members. We also discussed with these returning citizens the services that are available to assist them in being productive citizens in the community, such as job training programs. Research in other cities has shown that these types of re-entry call-in programs are an effective deterrent to crime.
These are small steps, perhaps, but they illustrate the creative ways our prosecutors are using limited resources to improve public safety. We welcome ideas from all sources.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan