Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force Targets Violent Offenders, Works With Community to Promote Public Safety
Federal-Local Partnerships Now Entering Second Year
WASHINGTON – A man with a history of drug and firearms convictions has been sentenced to 51 months in prison on a federal gun charge, marking the latest success of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a coordinated law enforcement effort to identify and address the most violent locations and offenders in the District of Columbia.
Jimmy Lee Johnson, Jr., 38, of Washington, D.C., earlier pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to unlawful possession of a firearm. He was sentenced on Oct. 25, 2018. Johnson was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on March 11, 2018, after officers recovered a loaded 9-mm pistol from his waistband. The arrest took place in an alleyway off the 1600 block of Kenilworth Avenue NE, in the Sixth Police District. That area has been a focus of the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort. Johnson had four prior convictions for drug and gun offenses and was on probation at the time of his arrest.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a Justice Department program that was revitalized and enhanced a year ago by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is working with federal and local partners in a multi-pronged approach that includes enforcement, crime prevention, re-entry programs, and community outreach.
“In just a year, Project Safe Neighborhoods already is making a difference in the District of Columbia,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. “We are working with the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI and other partners on investigations to get violent criminals, drug traffickers, and people with illegal guns off the streets. At the same time, we are working with the schools, social service agencies, and the community to break the cycle of violence.”
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Sessions said. “We know that the most effective strategy to reduce violent crime is based on sound policing policies that have proven effective over many years, which includes being targeted and responsive to community needs.”
In the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office leads a Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force that includes a wide array of representatives, including members from the Mayor’s Office; the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD); the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia; the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General; the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department; the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the District of Columbia; the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency; the District of Columbia Public Schools; federal law enforcement agencies; the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA); the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System; community-based victim’s services; health care, mental health, and substance abuse providers; community groups; faith-based organizations, and public service agencies.
The task force meets on a monthly basis. In its first year, the task force identified two target enforcement areas in the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts. This work is led by the Violent Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Section (VCNT) of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a group of dedicated veteran prosecutors. The collaboration has produced an increased number of federal firearms cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
VCNT prosecutors also are working with the Crime Gun Intelligence Center of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to identify firearms forensic evidence exposing linkages among various violent crimes committed in the target enforcement areas. Additionally, they are teaming up with the Violent and Repeat Offender Unit (VROU) in the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The overall enforcement strategy draws on comprehensive crime gun tracing, field interrogations, social network analysis, violent offender lists, probation/parole sweeps, violent fugitive round-ups, criminal incident reviews, case screening protocols, and drug courts.
As part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, the U.S. Marshals Service, together with partner task force agencies, last spring pursued offenders in targeted neighborhoods from a list of approximately 100 cases. Throughout the initiative, U.S. Marshals from District Court and Superior Court worked alongside federal and local task force partners to arrest violent fugitives while strengthening relationships in the community. The efforts resulted in the closure of more than 80 federal felony warrants and several state criminal warrants.
The task force also has a subcommittee that focuses on crime prevention, re-entry, and community engagement. This subcommittee manages large-scale outreach events such as the annual “Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence” Youth Summit held annually in Wards 7 and 8, and Project Safe Neighborhoods grant awards. This year’s award is approximately $176,000 and will be directed to Ward 7 and Ward 8 through an upcoming competitive award process.
In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as part of its Project Safe Neighborhoods efforts, has instituted a broad-based prevention, reentry, and community engagement strategy that draws on re-entry programs, clergy outreach, community engagement and outreach; community-building and crime awareness programs; juvenile outreach and school-based prevention, substance-abuse programs, and senior citizen outreach. The Office will be holding a Project Safe Neighborhoods Community Awareness Day at the Southern Avenue Metro Station from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2018. For more information, please contact External Affairs Specialist Melanie Howard at 202-252-6930.