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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Easley Announces Multi-Agency Initiative to Address Violent Crime in Rocky Mount

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

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Michael Easley today announced a new multi-agency initiative to combat violent crime in the Rocky Mount area that includes a task force of local, state, and federal law enforcement. The new Violent Crime Action Plan (VCAP) initiative was launched in collaboration with Rocky Mount Police Chief Robert Hassell earlier this week, in advance of the summer months when shootings typically increase.

“Rocky Mount is a place of great promise, brimming with growth and opportunity.  But that opportunity will not be fully realized until we unite as a community to stop the violence,” said Easley. “Since April 30, Rocky Mount has seen four homicides and three other shootings, including one earlier this week that wounded an innocent 9-year-old boy. Our state, local, and federal partners are committed to doing all we can, in conjunction with community stakeholders, to stop this wave of gun violence. First and foremost, that means getting illegal guns off the streets and bringing those responsible for the violence to swift justice – for the victims and for the community at large.”

Chief Hassell stated, “We believe this Violent Crime Action Plan will protect our community at a time when our citizens are understandably concerned. We appreciate the support and assistance from our federal partners and Edgecombe County Sheriff Cleveland Atkinson and Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone. By working together, we can reduce violent crime and make sure that our community is safe.”

“The ATF stands with the Rocky Mount community in its push against gun violence.  We are bringing our resources and expertise for a systematic and coordinated effort to target the most violent offenders on the streets,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Anthony Spotswood of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Nash County Sheriff’s Office and Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office have agreed to devote officers to the VCAP effort.  These resources will supplement the work of the Rocky Mount Police Department and other partners in the investigation and prosecution of gun violence in Rocky Mount.

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone commented, “The Nash County Sheriff’s Office is working collaboratively with the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office,  the Rocky Mount Police Department and federal agencies to reduce the violence in Rocky Mount.  The Nash County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to safer communities by enforcement of gang, gun and drug violations.”

“Edgecombe County is grateful for the assistance and partnership of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, the Rocky Mount Police Department and other local municipal police departments, the District Attorney’s Office and state and federal partners,” stated Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson.  “As law enforcement officers, we are here to make a positive difference in the lives of our citizens, and ensuring their safety is paramount.  We look forward to continuing proactive efforts to counteract criminal behavior and ensure safe communities.”

U.S. Attorney Easley stated, “The coordinated effort these agencies bring to this initiative will make Rocky Mount a safer place to live, work, and do business.” 

VCAP is a three-pronged approach drawing on close partnerships among federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as the community, to combat violence. 

Focused and Strategic Enforcement

  • Designating lead prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and District Attorney’s Office to prioritize the review of all gun crime cases with local and federal law enforcement for accelerated action.   
  • Sustained, proactive, and coordinated efforts to identify and prosecute the most significantly violent repeat offenders and dangerous criminal organizations in the Rocky Mount area.   
  • Focusing on the sources of crime guns, including the prosecution of gun traffickers, straw purchasers, suppliers of guns to juveniles, and those using non-serialized “ghost guns” in crimes. 

Inter-Agency Coordination and Intelligence-Led Policing

  • Analyzing crime data to identify trends, patterns, and “hot spots” to deploy resources where they are needed most. 
  • Leveraging federal Task Force Officers to bring federal technology and resources to address local gun violence. 
  • Increasing the use of Crime Gun Intelligence (CGI) through the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to identify and prosecute the serial trigger-pullers driving gun violence in local communities.   

Community Engagement

  • Raising awareness through youth education. EDNC is working with the Rocky Mount Police Department to introduce programs, such as “Educating Kids about Gangs and Guns,” into Nash and Edgecombe County Schools in hopes of engaging students, law enforcement, and educators in life-saving conversations.    
  • Engaging with local offender re-entry programs, such as the Nash Edgecombe Wilson Re-entry Council, in their ongoing work to help returning citizens successfully reintegrate into society following incarceration through employment, transportation, and housing-related support. 
  • Meaningful community engagement by law enforcement, hearing from the communities most affected by violence to better partner in stopping it through supporting prevention, intervention, and reentry services. 


The new task force ensures that Rocky Mount will have the full range of enforcement tools available to stop the violence. Participants will include representation from the Rocky Mount Police Department, Nash County Sheriff’s Office, Edgecombe County Sherriff’s Office, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the United States Marshal’s Service.  Prosecutors from the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are also engaged in the effort. 

This initiative is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is 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. 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.


Updated May 11, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods