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Reducing Gang Violence Comes Through Enforcement And Prevention

Last week saw the convictions of five members of a violent street gang in Flint and the arrests of five members of another gang operating in Southwest Detroit.  At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we are using all of the legal tools available to dismantle violent street gangs.  Real success, though, will come through prevention.

In Flint, five men were convicted by a jury after trial under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) for their roles as members of the Howard Boys street gang.  The defendants were convicted for their roles in drug trafficking and committing acts of violence, including murder.  Six other defendants earlier pleaded guilty to RICO charges in the same case.

In Southwest Detroit, five defendants were charged in an indictment with Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering (“VICAR”) under the Detroit One violence reduction initiative.  The indictment charges the defendants with assaults, murder, robbery, selling illegal narcotics and stolen firearms and breaking and entering homes and businesses.  The indictment alleges that the gang used violence to protect its turf and to intimidate residents and rival gang members.

Other street gangs have been charged with RICO and conspiracy in recent months, part of our focused effort to reduce gang violence and restore peace to our neighborhoods.  If defendants are committing serious acts of violence, we will arrest and prosecute them to protect public safety.

But long-term solutions require prevention.  With our federal, state and local partners, members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office are actively involved in prevention, intervention and re-entry efforts so that murders, arrests and incarceration can be avoided.  Our success is measured not in arrest statistics, but by the crime rate.

When a crime is committed, a victim is harmed.  Not only does the family of the victim suffer, but the family of the defendant suffers as well.  A defendant goes to prison, damaging his life and costing society $30,000 a year in incarceration costs, as well as the cost of his potential contributions to the economy and the community.

A far better scenario than arrest and prosecution is when no crime occurs in the first place.  That is why we are committed, along with our Detroit One partners, to prevention work.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office co-chairs the steering committee for the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, part of the President’s National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.  Later this month, the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative will host a youth leadership summit to encourage young people to make positive choices.

In addition, our lawyers organize an Explorers program to expose high school students to careers in the law.  We also visit middle schools to discuss the consequences of gun violence.  And we serve on the steering committee for Ceasefire Detroit, a program that intervenes with individuals on parole or probation who are involved in violent groups.

In Flint, our lawyers participate in the Flint Youth Initiative, in which lawyers serve as mentors to elementary school children, and they visit schools to warn about the consequences of drug and gun crimes.

          Our prevention efforts may not turn every child away from crime, but if we can make a difference for some, we will have achieved far more than we can with an arrest and prosecution.  Until we eradicate all crime in our community, we will continue to aggressively enforce the law to protect public safety in our neighborhoods.

Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan

Updated March 20, 2015