Formerly known as the Saint Louis Regional Ceasefire Initiative, the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative was launched in 2001. It is an aggressive, comprehensive commitment to reduce gun crime within the Eastern District of Missouri by networking existing local programs that target gun and violent crime and providing locally-based members of law enforcement with the tools and resources they need to be successful. In 2006, in response to the growing problem of violent gangs across the country, Project Safe Neighborhoods was expanded to include a focus on gangs and gang violence. The goal is to use strategies and partnerships with state and local law enforcement and communities to shut down violent gangs.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is based upon three fundamental principles. First, it is comprehensive. While enforcement is a necessary and important aspect of crime reduction programs, the most successful initiatives marry enforcement with prevention and deterrence efforts. Second, the program is coordinated. Programs that ensure coordination between the enforcement, deterrence and prevention efforts are more likely to succeed than those that do not. Third, it is community-focused. Gun crime is local, and Project Safe Neighborhoods is sufficiently flexible to be implemented in a way that both responds to the specific problems within the Eastern District of Missouri and accounts for the particular local capacities and resources that can be dedicated to it.
Using these principles as a guide, the Eastern District of Missouri’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program provides a multifaceted approach to deterring and punishing gun crime and gang violence by linking federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and willing community leaders. Project Safe Neighborhoods contains five primary elements: partnerships, strategic planning, training, outreach, and accountability.
Partnerships: Project Safe Neighborhoods creates workable and sustainable partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies through joint initiatives. Coordinated by the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri, Project Safe Neighborhoods includes both federal and local prosecutors, federal law enforcement agencies, local and state law enforcement agencies, probation and parole, and others where appropriate, such as representatives of local governments, social service providers, neighborhood leaders, members of the faith community, business leaders, educators and health care providers.
Strategic Planning: Recognizing that crime problems, including gun crime, applicable laws, and available resources within the Eastern District of Missouri differ from other locations throughout the United States, Project Safe Neighborhoods is continually tailored to address the specific issues present within the Eastern District of Missouri. The program’s strategic problem-solving involves the use of data and research to isolate the key factors driving gun crime within the Eastern District of Missouri, suggests intervention strategies and provides feedback and evaluation to partners. For example, collaboration occurs with the University of Missouri-Saint Louis to utilize research tools, such as crime mapping to assist strategic planning for crime reduction by focusing resources on the most serious people, places and contexts of gun violence. Collaboration with Saint Louis-based federal agencies also occurs to utilize technology, such as gun tracing and ballistics analysis, to deter gun crime.
Training: The training element underscores the importance of ensuring that each person involved in the gun crime reduction effort -- from the line police officer - to the prosecutor - to the community outreach worker -- has the skills necessary to be most effective. As part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri routinely commits its resources to support local training of law enforcement agencies on topics including gun crime investigations, crime gun identification and tracing, search and seizure and other related issues. Nationally-supported Project Safe Neighborhoods training programs hosted by a network of national training and technical assistance providers are also available.
Outreach:Project Safe Neighborhoods seeks to convey to the community and media its priorities, results and message of the likelihood of federal prosecution for illegal possession and use of a gun. In doing so, the program seeks to build a strong and lasting coalition with the citizens of the Eastern District of Missouri so they can be agents of change in their very own communities.
Accountability: Project Safe Neighborhoods is outcome focused. That is, the program’s success is measured by the reduction in gun crime. To do so, Project Safe Neighborhoods seeks to monitor levels of crime over time within targeted problems and/or targeted areas.
Of course, prosecution of gun crime and gang violence by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri plays a critical role in Project Safe Neighborhoods. A significant portion of gun crime involves offenders with significant criminal histories. Project Safe Neighborhoods is built on the belief that the increased federal prosecution of gun offenders will reduce gun crime. Thus, by increasing the certainty that a prohibited person in possession of a firearm will face strong federal sanctions, the goal is to persuade potential offenders not to illegally possess and carry a gun. This often means prosecuting difficult cases.
Cases which arise from Project Safe Neighborhoods initiatives are considered a high priority. That is because federal, state and local Project Safe Neighborhoods partners favor federal prosecution whenever possible for multiple reasons. First, federal sanctions for gun crime are often more severe than those either available at the state level or likely to be imposed at the state level. Second, federal prosecution may include sanctions unavailable at the local level. Third, federal prosecution routinely results in pretrial detention for chronic offenders, speedier trial dates and stiffer sentences. More specifically, there is no probation or parole in the federal system. A common fear reported by young people arrested with a firearm is the possibility that their respective case might "go federal." Why? A person does "hard time for gun crime" if federal prosecution occurs.
Assistant United States Attorney Thomas S. Rea has been designated as the Eastern District of Missouri’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Violent Crime and Anti-Gang Coordinator. Mr. Rea is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the initiative and monitoring of it. Mr. Rea may be contacted at 314.539.2200.
Please visit the national Project Safe Neighborhoods web site at http://www.projectsafeneighborhoods.gov for additional information.