United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. Announces Progress in Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods and the "Take Back North Carolina" Initiative
RALEIGH – 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 an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Throughout the past year, we have partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.
“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.”
“During the course of my over 25 years as a federal prosecutor, I have seen the dramatic impact that PSN can have on reducing violent crime in our communities. Following the Attorney General’s lead, we directed the revitalization of the PSN program in this District and have fully staffed it with aggressive and skilled prosecutors who can take on these violent criminals, and those who would victimize our citizens and local businesses. To reduce violent crime and remove drug traffickers from our neighborhoods, our efforts must be real on the streets of the cities, towns, and counties across the District and cannot just be a reemphasis from Raleigh. As such, in March of this year, we implemented the Take Back North Carolina Initiative to mold our PSN program to address the specific violent crime problems that exist in eastern North Carolina.”
Take Back North Carolina is a partnership between the United States Attorney’s Office, District Attorney’s offices, and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the 44 counties of the district to combat violent crime, drug trafficking and crimes against law enforcement. This partnership includes 44 Sheriffs, 188 Police Departments, and 15 elected District Attorneys, and utilizes the regional assignment of Assistant United States Attorneys, strategic targeting, decentralized case intake authority, and public messaging. Regional prosecution teams have been given the responsibility of working directly with law enforcement on a sustained basis to reduce violent crime by targeting those organizations and individuals responsible for the increased violent crime rates and for introducing the poison of illegal drugs into those particular communities. Take Back North Carolina allows the entire district to have the full range of enforcement tools available through the federal court system, allows the regional teams to quickly route matters to federal court when prosecution in that venue would deliver the most significant impact, and protects and supports law enforcement officers who face unacceptable threat levels as they enforce the law.
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:
- Warren T. Baker was sentenced to 408 months in federal prison in August 2018 for his armed robbery of a Starbucks in Fayetteville, NC, during which he confronted employees at gunpoint. Baker had a prior federal conviction for armed bank robbery. Read More
- Kelly Shadrome Anderson was sentenced to 120 months in federal prison in September 2018 after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Fleeing an altercation during which he fired a gun in Wilson, NC, Anderson took a 4 year old child hostage inside a nearby house. Anderson had prior felony convictions for selling cocaine, breaking and entering, and assault on a female. Read More
- Charlie O’Bryant Terry was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison in July 2018 for obstruction of justice and illegal possession of a firearm. Terry assaulted and robbed a couple at gunpoint in Vance County – placing a pistol in one victim’s mouth, and cutting the other victim’s head by repeatedly hitting him with the firearm. Terry had a prior federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Read More
- Joseph Luther Lewis was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison in August 2018 for possession of a firearm by felon and possession of a stolen firearm. After having a gunfight with a drug dealer in Fayetteville, NC, Lewis traveled to Robeson County and forcibly abducted his girlfriend at gunpoint – kicking and punching her when she attempted to escape. Lewis had prior felony convictions for possession with the intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver marijuana and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Read More
- David Kareem Turpin was sentenced to 240 months in federal prison in August 2018 for Hobbs Act robbery and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Turpin robbed Walmart, Food Lion, and Family Dollar stores in Raleigh, NC during which he brandished a firearm and abducted and threatened employees. Read More
- John Devere Battle was sentenced to 1,272 months in federal prison this month for robbing several convenience stores in Cary, NC, as well as his role in committing a home invasion during which the victims were robbed, tied up, pistol-whipped, threatened, and forced to withdraw money from a bank. Battle had prior felony convictions for breaking and entering and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Read More
- As a complement to the Take Back North Carolina enforcement strategy, the United States Attorney’s Office works with law enforcement to develop the most effective public messaging strategies for each community. Over the past year, this has included reentry programs; community engagement movie nights; school-based educational programs for children about the prevention of gun violence and bullying; and, call-in meetings with individuals identified to be at-risk of committing future violent acts. These meetings are conducted in partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement; community-based social service providers; business leaders; and the faith-based community to communicate a deterrence message by describing focused enforcement efforts and to link those individuals to services to address the root causes of violence and recidivism.
- Operation Ceasefire administered by Fayetteville Police Department under the PSN program in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office, utilizes a three-tiered approach of prevention, intervention, and suppression to reduce gun and gang violence with goal of improving the quality of life for all residents of Cumberland County. Read more. In the last year, through Operation Ceasefire over 100 offenders participated in the above described call-in meetings; over 2,000 people attended movie nights engaging with law enforcement and community leaders; and, over 3,300 students participated in the Educating Kids about Gun Violence Program in Cumberland County schools. Read More
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 one percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half 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 show that violent crime was down by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.
- Here in the Eastern District of North Carolina, we are seeing direct results of the PSN revitalization. Since the implementation of the Take Back North Carolina Initiative, our prosecutors have charged over 250 violent offenders and drug traffickers, many of whom have prior felony convictions. In addition, during this one year period, in Fayetteville, NC, homicides by use of a firearm have decreased by 23% and the number of firearms seized increased by 17%.
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.