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Press Release

Justice Department Leaders Meet to Discuss Efforts to Combat Violent Crime in St. Louis

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Justice Department officials are meeting this week with their local, state and federal counterparts, community groups and others to discuss current and planned efforts to combat violent crime in the St. Louis area, including dozens of upcoming grant opportunities.

Officials met with community groups, law enforcement officials and others in the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program yesterday at Washington University to discuss efforts to combat violent crime, including the Violent Crime Initiative. They also discussed seminars planned for next month to help community organizations, law enforcement and others apply for over 80 funding opportunities. Today, officials are training law enforcement about tools to target complex criminal organizations.

PSN is a nationwide program to address violent crime through community engagement, prevention and intervention, focused and strategic enforcement and accountability. 

In the PSN meeting, U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director Mark Pittella said, “Partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement, civic leaders, business owners, and local organizations are key to the overall success of law enforcement to reduce violent crime in our communities. The U.S. Marshals Service is committed to leveraging existing relationships and task force partnerships in St. Louis to focus on and apprehend specific fugitives who pose an immediate threat to public safety. Our goal is to provide communities with immediate relief from violent crime by combining our resources and authority with the resources and local knowledge of participating agencies.”

U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Director Mark Pittella speaking at a meeting.
Courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Rody and others from the Justice Department’s Criminal Division also briefed the PSN group about the Violent Crime Initiative, which relies on partnerships between the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country. The VCI has already brought three highly experienced trial attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Violent Crime and Racketeering Section, the nation’s foremost experts in federal racketeering law, to work with prosecutors in the Eastern District of Missouri and investigative agents, analysts, and forensic experts from law enforcement agencies. 

First announced in Houston in September of 2022, the VCI model has now been expanded to St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; Hartford, Conn.; and Jackson, Miss.

In Houston, over 50 gang members have been indicted on charges including murder, armed robbery and drug trafficking and related crimes via more than ten separate investigations.

Rody said that although violent crime is trending downward throughout the country, it is still a chronic problem primarily driven by guns, gangs and other organized groups. 

“The Violent Crime Initiative will target the ‘worst of the worst’ violent offenders using data to focus our efforts,” U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming said. Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials will be using tools like RICO and VICAR prosecutions to target the leaders and most violent members of the criminal organizations that are disproportionately driving violent crime in St. Louis and dismantle those organizations. “While arrests and prosecutions play a significant role in reducing violent crime, a variety of tools, like our PSN partnerships, are necessary to help the community,” she added.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Franks, the PSN Coordinator and Director of Community Engagement for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, also previewed a planned collaboration to offer students in the St. Louis Public Schools in-class lessons addressing conflict resolution, decision-making, gang resistance, the justice system and possible careers.

On Tuesday, Justice Department officials are holding a training to aid local law enforcement officials in bringing cases under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) and Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR) statutes. Although the cases are often more complex, lengthy and resource-intensive, RICO and VICAR allow prosecutors to address the complete picture of a criminal organization’s activities. They can provide federal jurisdiction over some crimes traditionally handled by state prosecutors and result in longer sentences for violent offenders associated with these criminal organizations. 

Next month, the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs will be holding two seminars about the many financial resources that are available and how to apply. One seminar will be aimed at law enforcement, hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The other, hosted by St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ office, will be for community organizations and other non-law enforcement groups.

There are over 80 funding opportunities, including funding for efforts to stop school violence, target crime guns, aid small and/or rural law enforcement agencies, improve outcomes for individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders, buy body worn cameras, help those impacted by illicit opioids and other drugs, address rape kit backlogs, prosecute cold cases using DNA, provide forensics training, reduce law enforcement suicide, address hate crimes, stabilize adults and juveniles in crisis and reduce the injury or death of missing individuals with dementia and developmental disabilities.

The seminars are tentatively scheduled for July 9.

Contact

Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer, robert.patrick@usdoj.gov.

Updated June 11, 2024

Topics
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime