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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD



Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html



JUNE 20, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


1,000 CONVICTIONS MARK PROJECT CEASEFIRE MILESTONE


CEASEFIRE REDUCES VIOLENT CRIME


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, was joined by law enforcement and community partners today to mark a significant milestone in Project Ceasefire, the district's nationally recognized anti-crime initiative.


            Wood announced today that 1,000 defendants have been convicted of illegally possessing firearms under Project Ceasefire, an initiative launched in late 1999 to target felons in the Kansas City metropolitan area who illegally possess firearms.


            “Project Ceasefire specifically targets felons with guns,” Wood said. “It is illegal for felons to carry guns, and those who do will be sent to federal prison. Ceasefire focuses on keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, and on preventing violent crime by taking armed felons off the streets.”


            Mike Boxler, special agent in charge of the regional office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kansas City Police Chief Jim Corwin, and Rick Easley, president of the KC Metropolitan Crime Commission, joined Wood in the announcement during a presentation on the lawn of Ilus Davis park near the federal courthouse. The lawn was decorated with 1,000 Project Ceasefire signs as a dramatic illustration of the number of convictions obtained in the program's first seven years.


            “To reach this milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our Project Ceasefire partners,” Wood added. “We credit the success of Project Ceasefire to the cooperation between law enforcement agencies at the local, state and national level, and between the public and private sectors.”


            Among the 1,000 defendants who have been convicted for illegally possessing a firearm, more than 900 have been sentenced to federal prison. The average sentence among those defendants is nearly five years in prison, although some defendants have received sentences of more than 20 years. Defendants with at least three prior felony convictions for violent crimes face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole.


            “Armed violent offenders have victimized our neighborhoods long enough, and by continuing to work together we can and we will remove those who commit senseless acts of violence from our communities,” said Mike Boxler, special agent in charge of the regional office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.


            On average, each of the 1,000 defendants convicted under Project Ceasefire has three or four prior felony convictions. Hundreds of those defendants have prior convictions for such violent crimes as murder, rape or assault, and nearly half of them have prior drug-trafficking convictions.


            “We know that felons are more likely to commit crimes than non-offenders,” Wood said. “These 1,000 felons – every one of them illegally possessing a gun – were taken off the street for a significant amount of time. Project Ceasefire is reducing violent crime in Kansas City.”


            A critical component of Project Ceasefire is a public awareness campaign that serves as a crime prevention measure. The Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission leads the campaign to educate the public, as well as felons, about federal laws and mandatory punishments attached to felons carrying firearms. The message of the campaign is short and direct: Felons with guns will be sent to federal prison. The campaign's theme -- "One Will Get You Five" -- emphasizes both the certainty of prosecution and the harshness of incarceration by reminding felons that one illegal gun will result in an average five-year prison sentence.


            The Crime Commission spearheads an extensive media campaign using television and radio, bus signs, billboards, print ads, mailers and other media. As a result of this campaign, many felons themselves, or under pressure from their families, have chosen not to carry a firearm. There are also one-on-one contacts with felons exiting the penal system to make them aware, through Project Ceasefire, of the consequences of carrying a firearm.


            “We can safely say that felons are very familiar with Project Ceasefire and know the consequences of carrying a firearm,” said Rick Easley, president of the KC Metropolitan Crime Commission. “Telling felons we have zero tolerance for those who carry firearms is a message that is heard loud and clear.”


            The Western District of Missouri prosecuted more firearm cases in both 2005 and 2006 than any other district among the 93 U.S. Attorneys offices nationwide. Members of the Violent Crime Strike Force have earned national recognition for their work. Last year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Becker received a Project Safe Neighborhoods Achievement Award. Becker, chief of the Violent Crime Strike Force and the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Coordinator for the Western District of Missouri, was recognized for Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Gun Crime Task Force.



            Project Ceasefire is designed to prosecute those who violate the prohibition against possessing a firearm, specifically within the Kansas City metropolitan area. More than 90 percent of the Project Ceasefire convictions involve felons, with the remaining defendants being illegal drug users, illegal aliens or others prohibited from possessing firearms.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html