FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, JANUARY 30, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
Project Safe Neighborhoods:
America's Network Against Gun Violence
Understanding the Problem:
Gun Violence Remains a Major Problem in the United States.
- More than 10,000 people are murdered with guns every year. Despite
an overall decline in the number of gun homicides during the last fifteen
years, the incidence of gun violence remains intolerably high. In 2001, guns
were involved in over one-third of a million violent crimes
(1) -- 10,131 people were murdered with guns
(2), and 47 of the 51 law enforcement officers killed in the United
States died from gunshot wounds (3). Of all
homicides committed in 2001, firearms were involved in 63.4%.
- Gun violence takes a serious toll on America's youth. The
impact of gun violence is particularly severe on our children and young adults.
Of the approximately 1,400 juveniles murdered in 2001, 44% were killed with
a firearm. (5) Over 2,800 students were expelled
in 1999-2000 for bringing guns to school. Of these, 43% were in elementary
or junior high school. (6)
Project Safe Neighborhoods Is Working to Fight
Gun Crime in America:
Implementing Locally-Targeted Gun Violence Initiatives across America.
- Gun crime reduction is the top domestic criminal justice initiative
of President Bush. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a comprehensive
approach to combating gun violence by linking together local, state and federal
law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to implement
a multi-faceted strategy to deter and punish gun violence from all sides.
It is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime by networking local programs
that target gun crime with state and federal efforts, and providing those
programs with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Project Safe Neighborhoods
is achieving unprecedented coordination among law enforcement officials, with
an emphasis on prevention, tactical intelligence gathering, more aggressive
prosecutions, and enhanced accountability through performance measures.
- Across the nation, 94 Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Forces
are working to implement the coordinated strategy to reduce gun violence,
led by the U.S. Attorney in each of the federal judicial districts.
U.S. Attorneys have been working side by side with all law enforcement participants
in their communities to identify the most pressing crime problems and attack
those problems both through prevention and aggressive prosecution.
- Each local program is contoured to fit the unique gun crime problem
in that district -- it is not the same "one size fits all" program applied
uniformly all across America. In fact, local initiatives often have their
own name, such as Project I.C.E., Exile, Ceasefire, FACE and others that
reflect their local emphasis and approach.
- Project Safe Neighborhoods expands on existing programs such
as Project Exile (Richmond, VA) and Operation Ceasefire (Boston).
Project Exile in Richmond focused on prosecuting gun crimes in federal court
under federal law. However, under Project Safe Neighborhoods, criminals who
use guns will be prosecuted under federal, state or local laws -- depending
on which jurisdiction can provide the most appropriate punishment. Project
Exile in Virginia coordinated resources statewide. Project Safe Neighborhoods
establishes a nationwide network of programs linked by aggressive cooperation
and information sharing.
- Project Safe Neighborhoods is funding federal, state and local
efforts to fight gun violence. Project Safe Neighborhoods commits
substantial resources to address gun violence. PSN is seeking to provide over
$901 million over 3 years - and state-of-the-art technology. Funds have been
used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide
training, and develop and promote community outreach efforts. The following
has occurred during Project Safe Neighborhoods' first full year of operations:
- More than 200 new federal prosecutors have been hired to focus on
- Approximately $63 million in grants have been made available to
hire about 550 new state and local gun prosecutors to focus on gun violence.
- Nearly 400 new ATF agents have been hired as part of PSN to investigate
- Approximately $70 million in grants have been issued to state and
local governments to assist local efforts in preventing and combating gun
- Regional and national PSN training has been provided to more than
10,000 individuals across the nation who work to make our communities safer.
Taking Steps to Prosecute Criminals Who Abuse
In FY 2002, Project Safe Neighborhoods resulted in dramatic
in federal and state gun prosecutions.
- Largest recorded increase in federal firearms prosecutions.
In FY 2002, federal prosecutions of defendants committing firearms
offenses increased by 20.2% -- the highest increase since the Department of
Justice began recording this information.
- Since this Administration began implementing Project Safe Neighborhoods
in 2001, federal prosecutions of firearms charges have increased 32%.
- Record number of defendants charged and convicted under Project
Safe Neighborhoods. In FY 2002, 10,634 defendants were charged in
the federal system for violating firearms statutes -- the largest number ever
prosecuted in a single year. Also, 7,747 defendants were convicted of violating
federal firearms laws -- the largest number ever convicted in the federal
system in a single year.
- Defendants are being sentenced to serious jail time under
Project Safe Neighborhoods. Over half of all defendants convicted
were sentenced to more than 5 years in federal prison. 71% of defendants were
sentenced to prison sentences greater than three years. Nearly all convicted
defendants, 93%, were sentenced to some time in prison.
- Since two-thirds of all gun crimes are committed by repeat offenders,
this emphasis on prosecuting individuals who commit these offenses takes
some of the most dangerous criminals off our streets and out of our communities.
- State and local prosecutions are also increasing under PSN.
Working alongside their federal counterparts, state and local prosecutors
are also prosecuting gun crimes at higher rates.
- For example, in Las Vegas, the number of firearms cases handled
by the District Attorney has increased by 100%, while federal prosecutions
in Nevada rose by 54%.
Launching a Mass Media Campaign to Deter Illegal
A new Public Service Advertising (PSA) Campaign warns
of the impact of illegal gun use.
- A new public service advertising campaign is ready to launch:
"Gun Crimes Hit Home." A critical element of every local gun violence
reduction initiative is an aggressive community outreach campaign that couples
a strong enforcement message with prevention and education messages. At the
core of this community outreach campaign is the message of prevention, while
warning criminals that they will do "hard time for gun crime." This message
is already being used effectively across the nation. The Department of Justice,
in collaboration with the Ad Council and the National Crime Prevention Council,
has also developed a new PSA campaign focusing on prevention. The PSA campaign's
theme is "you do the crime, your family does the time." The campaign focuses
on the many consequences that occur when guns are used illegally.
- Much of the success credited to Boston's Operation Ceasefire is
a result of an effective community outreach campaign. For example, in Boston,
following implementation of the Ceasefire Program, the monthly number of
youth homicides decreased by 63% and there has been a 25% decrease in the
monthly number of citywide all-age gun assault incidents. Much of this decline
is attributed to changed attitudes and beliefs of criminals, law enforcement,
and the community resulting from a strong outreach campaign.
Providing Voluntary Gun Locks to Every Household
Through Project Childsafe:
Firearm safety kits are being made available to every
household in America.
- Project ChildSafe, being announced this week, is a firearms
safety education program and a key component of President Bush's Project Safe
Neighborhoods program. During President Bush's campaign, he pledged
to distribute 65 million gun locks throughout the nation. Project ChildSafe,
administered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), delivers on
this pledge. NSSF has distributed over four million firearm safety kits nationwide
in the last three years, most recently under a congressionally earmarked program
entitled Project HomeSafe. Under the expanded program, in 2003, NSSF will
distribute 20 million safety kits nationwide in partnership with local law
enforcement agencies in communities across the country. Each kit contains
printed materials on both safe gun storage and gun safety information, as
well as a cable-style gun lock. In partnership with local law enforcement
groups, NSSF will use a fleet of mobile classrooms to bring the safe storage
message to local communities. NSSF will also develop a series of public service
announcements to carry a compatible firearms safety message to the public.
Integrating the ATF into the Justice Department
Integration will improve information sharing and cooperation
among DOJ components.
- The integration of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,
and Explosives (ATF) into the Justice Department, and the hiring of 400 new
ATF agents to support Project Safe Neighborhoods, will assist in the national
strategy to decrease gun crimes. The Justice Department's law enforcement
efforts will be assisted by the nearly 4,800 dedicated ATF employees who join
the Department as part of the federal government's reorganization - including
2,300 special agents with expertise in firearms, explosives and arson investigations
- and specialized laboratories.
- The Attorney General announced several additional steps to
ensure that the combined efforts are as effective as possible in making our
communities safer from gun violence. These measures include:
- The Attorney General directed all U.S. Attorneys and corresponding
ATF Special Agents in Charge to coordinate the referral guidelines and criteria
for the investigation and prosecution of gun cases in federal court, and
to ensure cases not brought in federal court are referred to state prosecutors
- The Attorney General directed the integration of the Department
and ATF's case referral information systems to ensure one coordinated system
for tracking gun case referrals and prosecutions.
- The Attorney General asked all U.S. Attorneys, together with ATF
and the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, to review the progress made
on his June 2001 directive to pursue "lie and try" cases - where criminals
lie about their past criminal convictions and are denied a gun sale because
a Brady background check catches the lie. This is a violation of federal
firearms laws, which the Department is fully committed to enforcing.
- The Attorney General also directed the Criminal Division, ATF and
other components to review the adequacy of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines
in punishing gun traffickers, including "straw purchasers" - individuals
with clean records who buy a few guns to sell to armed criminals who would
not be able to purchase guns legally.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Success Stories:
Across the nation, PSN's strategy of locally-targeted
programs is reaping results.
- Alaska: Dismantling Violent Gangs, One Prosecution at a Time.
One recent successful prosecution in which PSN played an important
role involved a notorious Anchorage gang called the Good Boys Trece Surenos
(GTS). According to the indictments in the case, those seeking membership
in the GTS gang were required to commit multiple armed robberies to show their
commitment and loyalty. The target of the gang crime was
a local motel. In the course of a single month, gang members were charged
with hitting the motel on three separate occasions, leaving each time with
the entire contents of the motel's cash register. On the night of January
30, 2001, an employee at the motel shot one of the robbers as he brandished
a handgun and attempted to take the motel's cash. Following a joint investigation
by the Anchorage Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
several gang leaders were apprehended and indicted by the U.S. Attorney's
Office on robbery and firearms charges. In coordination with the
District Attorney's office, numerous other gang members were arrested and
charged under state law. The successful investigation of the GTS gang members
and their spree of crimes was greatly facilitated by the high degree of cooperation
between federal and local law enforcement officers. Most importantly, the
convictions in this case of both aspiring and high-ranking gang members led
to the total dissolution of the GTS gang.
- Missouri: Murder Level Reaches Lowest Level in Thirty Years.
In Kansas City, federal prosecutions increased by 26% last year,
while the murder rate dropped 23% to its lowest level in three decades. This
reduction translates to real people: 27 people are living today who would
have been murdered the preceding year.
- Florida: Operation HALT the Violence. The Middle
District of Florida aims to reduce firearm violence and illicit gun trafficking
through Operation HALT (Handguns/Ammo/Long guns Trafficking) the Violence!
The federal commitment to reduce violent crime through this program is responsible
for the recent indictment of David Decal Owenby, a convicted felon charged
with assembling hand grenades. In January 2002 a pipe bomb was found near
an apartment complex in Brevard County, Florida. During the sheriff's investigation,
several apartment residents indicated that they had seen bomb-making books,
rifles, and two grenades inside Owenby's apartment. After obtaining a search
warrant, the ATF investigation revealed lengths of cannon fuse, various tools,
containers of powder, two grenades (one of which was "live" at the time of
the search warrant), two rifles, and ammunition. Owenby was arrested and pled
guilty to the charge of felon in possession and the possession of a firearm
not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
This violent felon posed an immediate and dangerous threat to society and
is now serving a lengthy prison sentence as a result of the cooperative efforts
promoted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
- California: Taking Violent Offenders to Task. Under
the PSN initiative, eight members and associates of the Vagos Outlaw Motorcycle
Gang have been charged with federal narcotics and firearms offenses, and three
members were also charged in Orange County Superior Court. The two-year investigation
resulted in the purchase and seizure of 95 firearms, including machineguns,
sawed-off shotguns, and assault rifles. This initiative in the Central District
of California has also brought to justice numerous individuals who are members
of the district's most violent street gangs.
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Report,
2001. Trend data charts combining murder, aggravated assault, and robbery: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_01/01crime2.pdf.
2. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Report,
2001. Trend data chart for murder, as well as Table 2.9, "Murder, Types of Weapons
3. Bureau of Justice Statistics. "Homicide Trends in
the U.S." http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/leoktab.htm.
4. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Report,
2001. Table 2.9: "Murder, Types of Weapons Used." http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_01/01crime2.pdf.
5. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Report,
2001. Table 2.11: "Murder Victims by Age by Weapon." http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_01/01crime2.pdf.
6. U.S. Department of Education. Report on State/Territory
Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act. http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSDFS/gfsareport99_2000.pdf.