U.S. Attorney’s Office Announces Multi-Agency Law Enforcement Initiative to Reduce Violent Crime in Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska – Today, Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office statewide Anti-Violent Crime Strategy, which brings together municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat the tide of rising crime in Alaska. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions announced the renewal of “Project Safe Neighborhoods,” (PSN) a program that successfully contributed to the reduction of violent crime approximately 15 years ago. As part of this renewed effort, the Attorney General tasked each U.S. Attorney’s Office with arriving at a comprehensive plan to address rising crime in their districts. A fundamental element of PSN is partnership with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, and the Strategy described below was developed in consultation with state and local Alaska agencies, including Department of Law.
The Alaska Anti-Violent Crime Strategy, which has been in development for the past several months, has five major components designed to stem to tide of violent crime:
- A federal “duty agent” will be called out to every murder scene and shooting scene. Their function will be to provide assistance, intelligence from any federal investigations, and to explore federal charges if requested to do so by state and local law enforcement and the Department of Law.
- A ballistics task force will review ballistic evidence at every shooting to match up ballistics from crime scenes and recovered firearms. There are already approximately 60 correlations between ballistics evidence at different crime scenes, and the ATF will be following up on each correlation to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of violent assaults in the most appropriate forum.
- Project “Real Time” is a program committed to the identification of violent offenders and the initiation of prompt federal prosecution.
- Anti-violence efforts in rural Alaska will focus on the partnership with the Alaska State Troopers, and be directed toward federal prosecution of violent felons and domestic abusers who possess firearms.
- Reentry and Prevention efforts. The goal of PSN and the Alaska Anti-Violent Crime Strategy is to prevent crime – not fill prisons. To this end, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is coupling the above programs with new reentry efforts. For example, Project Face to Face, which will be aimed at meeting with certain high-risk inmates scheduled to be released from custody. The purpose of this project is to make clear that violence and drug trafficking by repeat offenders will not be tolerated, but help is available for all those who wish to break the cycle of violence, drug trafficking and gang activity to become productive citizens. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, together with its federal partners, will continue organizing events at secondary schools all over Alaska to discuss the dangers of opioid abuse. This program, based on the DEA/FBI-produced documentary called “Chasing the Dragon,” will continue this year, as federal prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and medical professionals will join together to discuss their experience with the opioid epidemic.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska and our partners have been employing some of the above strategies for the past two months. Following this model, the office has had a record number of federal charges filed since August 2017. In the past two months, federal charges have been filed against 68 individuals in 56 separate violent crime cases. This represents approximately twice as many indictments and defendants charged, compared to a similar two-month period last year. Many of these cases resulted from the cooperation of federal, state, and local entities, including cooperation from the Department of Law. Some representative cases include:
- U.S. v. Twigg and Conangnan. This case charged the defendants with interfering with commerce by robbery of two coffee stands on September 25, as well as using a firearm in furtherance of these crimes. Defendant Shane Twigg, 35, has seven prior felonies and had a pending assault case when the robberies occurred. Myles Conangnan, 27, has a prior felony for Burglary, as well as 16 other convictions, including six convictions from four separate cases in 2017 alone. Both defendants face mandatory minimum sentences of 32 years in federal prison if they are convicted.
- U.S. v. Sampo. This case charged carjacking by a four-time prior felon, Michael Sampo, 28. It is alleged that on September 12, Sampo approached a woman who had just left the Subway restaurant near the Northway Mall. Sampo presented a gun and demanded her keys and purse. When the victim said that her keys were somewhere in the bottom of her purse, Sampo shot his gun into the ground. The woman threw her purse into the car and ran back into Subway, after which Sampo drove off in her vehicle. About 90 minutes later, APD spotted the stolen car, which led to a chase that ended with police ramming the vehicle to a stop on 5th Avenue in Anchorage. Sampo fled the car and was apprehended by a K9 unit. The K9 unit later found the handgun Sampo had discarded while attempting to flee. Sampo faces up to 15 years on the carjacking charge, plus a mandatory minimum ten-year consecutive sentence for using the firearm to commit the carjacking.
- Numerous charges alleging felon in possession of firearms against several members of the 1488 gang, which is a white supremacist prison gang. Several of the gang members had been recently released from prison and were all found in possession of firearms.
All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Schroder thanked the Alaska Department of Law, the Anchorage Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshal Service, and the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, all of which contributed to one or more of the above cases, as well as actively participated in the formulation of the Alaska Anti-Violent Crime Strategy. Acting U.S. Attorney also thanked the Anchorage Municipal Prosecutor’s Office, which, since 2007, has assigned a prosecutor to work as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) on violent crime cases in Anchorage. In the past two months, this SAUSA has charged over ten violent crime cases.