Local Officials Team Up with National Leadership To Reduce Gun Crime in Our Community
Las Vegas, Nev. - The 2004 National Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) conference met this week in Kansas City, Missouri, and included an eight-person delegation from the Las Vegas, Nevada area. Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke to over 1,150 federal, state, and local prosecutors, law enforcement officials, community leaders, and other members of the PSN teams from across the nation who came together to discuss efforts to reduce and prosecute gun crime. PSN is President Bush's comprehensive initiative to combat gun crime in America by providing locally-based programs with the tools and resources they need to succeed.
Through Project Safe Neighborhood's unprecedented partnership of state, local and federal leaders, we are turning the tide on gun crime," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "We are taking gun-wielding criminals off our streets. The last three years represent a record of great success, but working together, we can do even more to make our neighborhoods safe."
"PSN in southern Nevada is implemented by the Southern Nevada PSN Task Force, which has continually demonstrated that outstanding results can be achieved through effective, productive partnerships, said Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada. "Through the efforts of this team, we have removed hundreds of violent recidivist offenders from the Las Vegas community."
Federal Gun Crime Prosecutions Have Increased Significantly Every Year Under Project Safe Neighborhoods. From FY 2000 to FY 2003, federal firearms prosecutions increased by 68 percent. In FY 2003, the Justice Department filed over 10,500 federal firearms cases—the highest number ever recorded by the Department. The number of defendants charged with federal gun crimes rose from approximately 10,600 to over 13,000 from FY 2002 to FY 2003, a record increase of almost 23 percent. These figures are the highest on record in a single year since the Department began recording this information. In FY 2003, nearly all — 93 percent— of convicted defendants, who were originally charged with federal firearms offenses, were sentenced to some time in prison for convictions on firearms charges or other charges. State and local prosecutions have also increased.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Is Working In Las Vegas. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, working side-by-side with local law enforcement officers and prosecutors from the Clark County District Attorney's Office, have created a PSN strategy to fit the unique gun crime problem in southern Nevada. In October 2001, the Southern Nevada PSN Task Force was formed. Its members include the U.S. Attorney's Office, Clark County District Attorney's Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Henderson Police Department, and North Las Vegas Police Department. The members meet once a week to review cases involving criminals using or possessing guns. Criminals who use or possess guns are prosecuted under federal or state laws, depending on which jurisdiction can provide the most appropriate punishment. Through December 31, 2003, this Task Force reviewed 1,206 cases involving gun crime. The crimes include felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense or crime of violence, and possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a domestic violence offense.
In 2003, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada in Las Vegas charged 186 individuals with federal gun crimes, the highest number ever recorded by the District of Nevada. The number of indictments returned charging federal gun crimes rose from 39 in 2001 to 147 in 2002, and to 162 in 2003, a record increase of over 400 percent. These figures are the highest on record in a single year since the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada began recording this information. Between July 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004, 66 individuals were convicted and sentenced in the United States District Court in Las Vegas for gun crime offenses. Approximately 65 percent convicted were sentenced to more than three years in prison, and approximately 36 percent convicted were sentenced to more than five years in federal prison.
The most recently published FBI statistics for southern Nevada indicate reductions in violent crime rates in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, validating the effectiveness of the strategy.
In recognition of these outstanding achievements, the Southern Nevada PSN Task Force received an Honorable Mention award for Outstanding Partnership/Task Force at this week's National PSN Conference. At the National Conference, the Nevada team was one of only about 25 teams receiving an award. The other two task forces receiving an award for Outstanding Partnership/Task Force were the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta) and the Northern District of Ohio.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Has Contributed to Decreasing the Violent Crime Rate to Its Lowest Levels in 30 Years. The violent crime rate is now at its lowest level since 1973, when the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics started collecting criminal victimization data. The violent crime rate from 2001 to 2002 was nearly 21 percent lower than for 1999 to 2000. The per capita number of violent crimes involving firearms has dropped 14 percent in 2001 to 2002, from 1999 to 2000. There were approximately 64,000 fewer gun crimes and approximately 12 percent (almost 130,000) fewer victims of gun crime in 2001 to 2002, than in 1999 to 2000.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Takes a Multifaceted Approach to Reducing Gun Crime. Gun crime reduction is President Bush's top domestic criminal justice initiative, and the Bush Administration has devoted over $1 billion to Project Safe Neighborhoods in its first four years (FY 2001 to FY 2004). The funds have been used to hire new federal, state, and local prosecutors, provide training, hire research and community outreach support, and develop and promote effective prevention and deterrence efforts.
The PSN conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. To find out more about PSN and its local programs, visit the PSN website at www.psn.gov.