WASHINGTON – Today, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced additional federal resources to help combat the recent increase in violent crime in New Orleans. These additional resources will support state and local law enforcement officials who are struggling to meet the challenges of fighting violent crime in the continued aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The announcement was also made at a press conference in New Orleans by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten of the Eastern District of Louisiana, along with Special Agents in Charge Jim Bernazzani of the FBI, David Harper of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), William Renton of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michael Holt of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Acting U.S. Marshal Roxanne Irwin, New Orleans Police Chief Warren Riley, and Regional Director of the Office of Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donna Gambrell.
“The people of New Orleans deserve the opportunity to rebuild their communities without the fear of being victimized by violent criminals. These new resources further demonstrate the Department of Justice’s support of state and local law enforcement to meet the challenges of preventing and prosecuting violent crime and to rebuild and strengthen the criminal justice system in the continued aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “Ultimately, New Orleans’ violent crime problem must be solved by local leadership and the hard work of local law enforcement professionals. I commend all the federal, state and local law enforcement professionals who dedicate themselves every day to the hard task of providing safety and security to the residents of New Orleans.”
Justice Department officials outlined the additional resources that will act as a force multiplier to those state and local law enforcement officers dedicated to fighting violent crime in New Orleans. The additional federal resources include the following commitments:
The Department has committed to extend funding for six Assistant U.S. Attorney detailees to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana through the end of this fiscal year (FY 2007).
The U.S. Attorney’s Office will spearhead an initiative that will co-locate a small number of ATF, DEA and FBI agents with the New Orleans Police Department around the clock. These federal agents will identify cases that are subject to federal jurisdiction, provide the necessary investigative assistance to make federal arrests, and follow up with federal prosecutions.
The ATF will provide six special agent details to supplement the six ATF agents permanently assigned to the New Orleans Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT). Four of the six special agent details were assigned to the New Orleans VCIT in August 2006, and the additional two special agent details are currently reporting for duty. This total increase temporarily doubles the standard ATF manpower assigned
ATF has obtained new equipment to replace the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network (NIBIN) equipment that had been deployed at a New Orleans Police Department site, but was destroyed by Katrina. By the end of February, ATF will move the NIBIN equipment to the new ATF offices to facilitate use and access until the police department is able to identify a suitable permanent site. Once the NIBIN equipment is redeployed, New Orleans will be able to link up with over 200 sites throughout the country to compare ballistics information. NIBIN is a powerful tool in the fight to solve and reduce violent crime because it allows law enforcement to link together cold crimes and recovered weapons where previously very few, if any, leads existed.
The DEA temporarily has been provided authority to investigate and enforce all federal criminal law, in addition to federal drug laws. This authority will allow DEA agents to assist the New Orleans Police Department in maintaining law and order in the City of New Orleans.
The FBI will detail an additional nine agents to the New Orleans area to supplement the 13 FBI agents permanently assigned to the Violent Gang Safe Streets Task Force.
The FBI will provide training to the New Orleans Police Department on Project Pinpoint. Project Pinpoint combines mapping software with existing police intelligence such as the location of crimes, bench warrant information, source coverage and tips from the public. Using this innovative technique, the FBI and its law enforcement partners have been able to more efficiently use existing intelligence to solve real crimes.
The U.S. Marshals Service will continue its increased support of the Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force by temporarily extending the additional three Deputy U.S. Marshals and one investigative analyst detailed to that Task Force in August 2006.
Last August, the Attorney General toured state and local law enforcement facilities and met with federal, state and local law enforcement officials to discuss ongoing collaborative efforts to fight crime and rebuild the community. The Attorney General also met with members of the Louisiana congressional delegation and state and local government officials to discuss how the federal government can best assist state and local law enforcement in combating violent crime.
These new resources build upon the Department’s efforts in the last year. Following Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was a driving force in the creation and continued vitality of the Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force, and the Department has made nearly $30 million in grants available to the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish to help rebuild the criminal justice system. In total, the Department has made available to the state of Louisiana over $61 million in justice assistance grants and Katrina relief law enforcement infrastructure funds.