Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Ben for that introduction and thank you for your 13 years of service to the Department of Justice and your outstanding leadership as U.S. Attorney.
It’s good to be back in Columbus.
I also want to thank:
- Trevor with ATF
- Ken Mammoser of the FBI
- Deputy Chief U.S. Marshal Brad Stuart
- Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs, and
- Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.
Thank you all for being here.
Today we are announcing that a grand jury has returned an indictment of 19 alleged members of the Trevitt and Atcheson Crips gang of the King-Lincoln neighborhood here in Columbus.
Before I say anything else, I want to remind everyone that the defendants in these cases—as in every case—are innocent until proven guilty.
The allegations that I will present today are just that: allegations.
These charges are serious and include racketeering, robbery, drug trafficking, and five murders—each one of them capital offenses at the federal level. Each of the 19 defendants is potentially facing a life sentence.
Two years ago, this city was heartbroken by the shooting of De’Ontae Fisher, a seven year old who was caught in the crossfire of a gang shootout between the Crips and the Bloods.
He was killed right in front of his two younger siblings. His mother had driven them to the store and gone inside when the violence erupted. His killer was a member of the Trevitt and Atcheson Crips who is now serving a life sentence behind bars. Today’s indictment charges an alleged accomplice in that shooting.
Astoundingly, the indictment alleges 26 separate incidents where Crips members attempted murder.
Thanks to ballistics analysis supported by our Department of Justice ATF team, our prosecutors were able to match the shell casings from several shootings to trace the bullets back to the same gun.
Several of these shooting incidents were captured on surveillance footage. Two of the defendants have pled guilty to robbing a convenience store. While fleeing the scene of the crime, one of them allegedly disposed of a gun that we later matched to shell casings in two of the shootings.
We have intercepted thousands of phone calls to and from prisons related to this case, including calls to or from 14 of the defendants. We are seeing too many hardened criminals and gang members orchestrate criminal activities from behind bars.
Some of the defendants allegedly boasted of their illegal activities during police-surveilled gang meetings and parties as well as on social media postings and even in dozens of police field interviews.
Some of the gang members allegedly wrote songs confessing illegal activities and then put them online.
According to the allegations, the gang threatened and intimidated witnesses.
They allegedly sold cocaine—both crack and powder—as well as heroin, oxycodone, and marijuana, and used houses under other people’s names to store and sell drugs.
In fact, we believe that virtually the only source of income for most of the defendants has been illegal drug sales. Gang members allegedly would send female associates and drug addicts to Huntington, West Virginia, Portsmouth, Ohio, and Chillicothe to pick up drugs and guns.
For several years, the gang allegedly trafficked crack cocaine from Columbus to Huntington, where it was sold on a daily basis. We allege that from the summer of 2015 to May of this year, the gang brought an estimated half-pound of crack to West Virginia every other week.
We believe that the gang trafficked about a kilogram of heroin to Portsmouth every week.
The proceeds of these drug sales allegedly went to buying illegal guns that were brought back to Columbus to be used in a gang war against the Bloods from the Milo-Grogan neighborhood—north of I-670.
This gang war appears to be ongoing.
I want to remind the public once again that the defendants in all of these cases are innocent until proven guilty.
This is an important case not just to Columbus, not just to Central Ohio or Huntington or Portsmouth—but to the entire country.
Violent gangs seek to dominate and control neighborhoods in Columbus and in cities across America.
But they will fail.
This is our country—not their turf. They don’t get to exercise sovereignty over one inch of this city.
We are not going to cede one block—not one street corner—to criminals, to gangs, to outlaws.
I want to assure everyone in Columbus that we are bringing the full force of law against these gangs. We know the victims are most often poor and minorities. Their communities are most at risk, and they deserve to live in safety.
And so I want to thank the ATF, FBI, the Marshals Service, the Columbus Police, and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien for their hard work on the cases I have announced today.
I especially want to thank AUSAs Kevin Kelley, Noah Litton, and David DeVillers. David and Kevin have also done fabulous work taking on another Columbus gang called the Short North Posse. As a former AUSA myself I recognize good work when I see it—and this is great work.
Today’s indictment and arrests are a perfect example of the Department’s strategy to reduce violent crime in America.
When I took office as Attorney General, violent crime had been rising significantly. Big mistakes had been made.
Some people and politicians saw police as the problem. In the last two years of the previous administration, the violent crime rate went up by nearly seven percent. Assaults went up nearly 10 percent. Rape went up by nearly 11 percent. Murder shot up by more than 20 percent. That’s what was happening when President Trump took office.
These trends were utterly unacceptable.
They were especially shocking because from 1991 to 2014, violent crime had dropped by half. Murder dropped by half. So did aggravated assault.
Rape decreased by more than a third, and robbery plummeted by nearly two-thirds.
From the day I took office I plainly stated our goals were to reverse these trends, reduce crime, reduce homicides, reduce excess opioid prescriptions, and reduce the surging overdose deaths—all very big threats here in Ohio.
I am proud to say that there are signs that we are achieving all of these goals.
Last week the FBI released the final crime numbers for 2017, which showed that violent crime and murder had not just stabilized, but actually went down.
For this year, 2018, one estimate projects that the murder rate in our 29 biggest cities will decline by 7.6 percent—bringing the murder rate back down to 2015 levels in those cities.
The DEA’s National Prescription Audit shows that in the first quarter of 2018, total opioid prescriptions nationwide went down by nearly 12 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017, when President Trump took office. And that's in addition to a seven percent decline in 2017.
And while 2017 saw more overdose deaths than 2016, data for the last quarter of the year show that increases may have finally stopped.
We have begun to see success in all four of my metrics for success in these areas as Attorney General: reduce violent crime, reduce murders, reduce prescriptions for opioids, and reduce overdose deaths.
I am grateful to you for the contributions that you have made toward these goals.
So how did we do it?
This achievement was based on our close partnerships with the 85 percent of law officers in this country who serve at the state and local levels.
One year ago this week, I announced that the Trump administration was re-launching a program called Project Safe Neighborhoods, or PSN, as the centerpiece of our efforts to fight violent crime.
As many of you know, this program began in 2001, and it quickly proved successful. One study showed that, in its first five years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of more than 40 percent.
Here’s how it works. I’ve directed Ben and our other U.S. Attorneys to do two things. First of all, to target and prioritize prosecutions of the most violent people in the most violent areas—like you’ve done with the Crips in the King-Lincoln neighborhood.
Second, I’ve told our U.S. Attorneys to engage with a wide variety of stakeholders—from police chiefs to sheriffs, to prosecutors, to mayors, to community groups and victims’ advocates—in order to identify the needs specific to their communities and develop a customized violent crime reduction plan.
I am pleased to say that the President and Congress has supported us in these efforts on a bipartisan basis.
Earlier this year, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan worked with Congresswoman Barbara Comstock to author the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act, which President Trump signed into law. It passed unanimously in the Senate. This bipartisan new law is enabling us to implement PSN in cities all across America and to accomplish the kind of things I’ve announced today. The funding does not go to federal law enforcement but to our state and local partners.
With regard to this community, we know that Ohio has been especially hard hit by the opioid crisis—and criminal gangs like the Crips are driving forces behind the epidemic. In 2016 Ohio was second in the nation for overdose deaths—and third in the nation for opioid overdose deaths specifically.
As I mentioned, the Crips in the King-Lincoln neighborhood allegedly sold large quantities of opioids in Central Ohio and West Virginia and used the proceeds to buy illegal guns. This is a reminder that—as surely as night follows day—violence follows drug activity.
Our law enforcement team will be relentless in dismantling the criminal networks that bring deadly drugs over our borders and into our communities—you can be sure of that. And we are well aware that the vast majority of the illegal drugs— methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl—come across our southern border from Mexico. We must control our borders.
But we also understand that we’ve got to get help to those who need it—before the situation gets worse.
This year alone, President Donald Trump has signed into law $4 billion for the fight against the opioid epidemic. Some of that money will help the scientists at the National Institutes of Health continue research into non-addictive pain relievers to take the place of opioids. This would be a great breakthrough, but it could be years off. Most will go to the Department of Health and Human Services for treatment and other programs.
Under President Trump, the Department of Justice is also doing its part to help people take their lives back from addiction.
Yesterday I announced that the Department of Justice will invest more than $320 million in the fight against the opioid epidemic. That includes $14 million for cities, counties, drug courts, and treatment services here in Ohio.
That funding includes:
- $799,000 for the Columbus Fire Department
- $999,000 for Columbus Public Health
- $881,000 for Franklin County, and
- $899,000 for Franklin County Municipal Court.
These funds will have an impact on the Buckeye state and on Columbus—just like PSN.
President Trump is also keeping his promise to make our schools safer.
In March, the President signed into law the Stop School Violence Act. Under this new law, the Department of Justice will provide funding to train teachers and students and to develop a threat reporting system. We began issuing grants in June.
Today I am announcing that the Department of Justice will provide $70 million in these funds across the country.
- $687,000 for the Ohio Department of Education
- $363,000 for Summit County
- $374,000 for Hocking County
- $113,000 for Akron, and
- $176,000 for New Franklin, Ohio.
Your Attorney General—my good friend from the Judiciary Committee, Mike Dewine—is a real champion of school safety and he has set up a Task Force on School Safety. He has been very supportive and very appreciative of these grants.
More than $19 million will go to supporting threat assessment and crisis reporting systems.
About $28 million will go to providing training and education on how to prevent violence and responding to mental health crises.
Nearly $25 million will go to training school resource officers.
In addition, the Department has awarded $64 million in grant funding to improve state criminal justice information systems, which will benefit our firearm background check systems.
We will not tolerate illegal guns in the hands of violent criminals.
In 2017, we charged the most federal firearm prosecutions in a decade.
Fully 41 percent more gun defendants were prosecuted in fiscal year 2017 than they were just five years before.
I am announcing today that in fiscal 2018 we charged nearly 20 percent more firearms offenders than we did in 2017 and 30 percent more than we charged in 2016.
If you can believe it, the increase has been so striking that we’ve actually been criticized in the press for being so tough on illegal guns.
Here’s what the critics don’t understand: we are targeting violent felons.
We are targeting the most violent people in the most violent areas and felons who have guns—cases like the one I’ve announced here today.
Thanks to the people in this room—in 2017, the Department of Justice brought cases against the greatest number of violent criminals in a quarter of a century. It was the most since we started keeping track—it may even have been the most ever.
And I am announcing today that we have broken records yet again—and it’s not even close.
Over the last fiscal year—October 1 of 2017 up to September 30, 2018—the Department of Justice brought charges against 15 percent more violent crime defendants than we did in the previous, record-breaking year.
The numbers were about the same for other crimes, too: overall, we charged 15 percent more defendants in fiscal 2018 than we did in 2017.
And so we’re going to keep up this pace. The new prosecutors and agents President Trump has authorized are now coming on line. We’re going to keep supporting you. We will not capitulate to rising crime rates. We will bring them down. We will make our communities safer.
Each one of you in law enforcement can be certain about this: we have your back and you have our thanks.