U.S. Attorney Announces Progress in Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. PSN is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. The PSN strategy empowers each district to develop targeted, localized violent crime reduction strategies, tailoring solutions to each individual community. PSN has been proven to reduce violent crime since it was launched in 2001, and the revitalized version has been enhanced with new technologies and a redoubling of efforts to strengthen partnerships with local communities.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Jeff 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. I have empowered our United States Attorneys to focus enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals in their districts, and directed that they work together with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to develop tailored solutions to the unique violent crime problems they face. Each United States Attorney has prioritized the PSN program, and I am confident that it will continue to reduce crime, save lives, and restore safety to our communities.”
U.S. Attorney Scott stated: “Our office has a strong track record of working with our federal, state and local partners to prosecute cases aimed at reducing violent crime in our communities. We have developed a model that targets the most violent street gangs plaguing counties in our district, and we have focused on stemming the tide of illegal firearms flowing into our communities, prosecuting those who manufacture, distribute, and possess those weapons. We have deployed this strategy in the Counties of Fresno, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Kern, Solano and Tulare, and we are working to spread this model throughout the district. Project Safe Neighborhoods is alive and well in the Eastern District of California.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office works regularly with District Attorney’s Offices in Fresno, Sacramento, Kern, Stanislaus, Solano, and Tulare Counties, and partners with local law enforcement and federal agencies to target drivers of violence in those communities, including gang members and those who inject illegal firearms into the hands of criminals. This team collects and analyzes statistical and anecdotal data to refine the targeted use of pooled resources. Since the revitalization of PSN in October 2017, almost 200 defendants have been indicted federally for charges arising from PSN investigations. Sixty-four of those stemmed from investigations in Sacramento, Solano, Shasta, and San Joaquin Counties. In 2018, a total of 60 PSN defendants were sentenced to between two and 15 years in prison in the Eastern District of California.
Project Safe Neighborhoods has helped to reinvigorate existing partnerships in our district, which has a history of successful collaborations with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Those collaborations have resulted in several large-scale, long-term, multidefendant gang cases, with many arrests, guilty pleas, and sentencings occurring over the past year. Below are examples.
Operation Silent Night involved a coalition of local, state and federal law enforcement officers who conducted 69 searches at various locations throughout Northern California. Officers arrested 25 defendants on federal charges. In addition, local officials arrested more than 10 individuals on state charges. The investigation, led by the FBI, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Woodland Police Department, focused on coordinated criminal activity that centered in Yolo County but extended to other Northern California counties and prisons.
Three Stockton residents were charged with unlawful dealing in firearms in February 2018. One defendant allegedly sold 50 firearms, including machine guns, stolen firearms, firearms with obliterated serial numbers, and assault rifles manufactured from unfinished lower receivers with no serial numbers. At the time of his arrest, he possessed one handgun, eight machineguns, and five machine gun-conversion devices. Another allegedly manufactured and sold approximately 15 assault rifles. The third defendant allegedly sold eight firearms, including five assault rifles manufactured from unfinished lower receivers with no serial numbers. None of the defendants is licensed to deal in firearms.
A Grass Valley man was sentenced to five years in prison for unlawful manufacturing and dealing in firearms. He contacted a firearms vendor on the dark web seeking to sell AR-15-style “ghost” guns. Firearms without serial numbers are sometimes referred to as ghost guns. The firearms vendor was in fact an undercover agent. He manufactured and sold eight AR‑15‑style firearms without serial numbers to the undercover agent in exchange for payment in bitcoin.
A Vallejo man was sentenced to five years in prison for being a felon in possession a firearm. On July 26, 2017, officers executed a search warrant at Andrews’ home in Vallejo and at a hotel in Fairfield where. When officers arrived at the hotel parking lot, they confronted the defendant, who discarded a .40‑caliber semi-automatic handgun under a car. The gun was loaded with 12 rounds of ammunition, including seven rounds of hollow point ammunition. The defendant could not lawfully possess firearms because he has previously been convicted of felony offenses, including a January 2016 conviction in Solano County for assault with a firearm on a police officer.
Improvements to Community Safety
- The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline. The nationwide violent crime rate decreased by approximately 1 percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly 1.5 percent.
- The preliminary information we have for 2018 gives us reason for optimism that our efforts are continuing to pay off. Public data from 60 major cities, including Sacramento and Fresno, show that violent crime was down by nearly 5 percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.
These enforcement actions and partnerships are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.