United States Attorney William M. McSwain Announces Progress in Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain joins the Department of Justice and other United States Attorneys across the country in commemorating the one year anniversary of the reinvigoration and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) – the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction strategy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made turning the tide of rising violent crime in America a top priority, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to develop a district crime reduction strategy that incorporates the lessons learned since PSN launched in 2001.
“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 responsible to community needs.”
Over the past year, the Eastern District has successfully prosecuted many instances of violent crime and has partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to share information and make neighborhoods safer places to live and work.
Enforcement Action through Prosecution of Violent Offenders
A central focus of the PSN strategy is to work with local law enforcement in the nine counties we serve to ensure federal efforts are focused on prosecuting the most violent offenders. Our collaboration has yielded the desired results, and the following three cases serve as excellent examples of our enforcement efforts:
- On October 2, 2018, Kareem Murphy, of Darby, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, was convicted after a jury trial of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of possessing a firearm in a school zone. Murphy fired a gun into a home located less than 1,000 feet away from Delaplaine McDaniel Elementary School – the school Murphy attended as a student. As U.S. Attorney McSwain observed when the jury returned its verdict, “The defendant endangered the lives of everyone in the vicinity, even though he should have never had a gun in the first place because of his felony conviction. We are very lucky no one was hurt.”
- On August 6, 2018, Koren Jones, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to two armed robberies, one attempted robbery, and related firearms offenses – all over the course of a two-day violent crime spree in November 2016. Jones’ two armed robberies were committed at local grocery stores, and the attempted armed robbery occurred at a deli in the same neighborhood. As U.S. Attorney McSwain explained after the sentencing, “By seeking and obtaining a significant prison sentence in this case, we made the neighborhoods Jones terrorized safer today than yesterday.”
- On January 26, 2018, Herick Jaramillo, of Bethlehem, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, was charged with six counts of armed robbery. In May 2018, he pleaded guilty to robbing the same gas station six times over a two-month period. He remains incarcerated and awaits sentencing.
Law Enforcement Partnerships with Pennsylvania State and Local Agencies
In the six months since U.S. Attorney McSwain took office, he has prioritized strengthening the Office’s partnerships with local and state law enforcement partners. During his first few months in office, U.S. Attorney McSwain traveled to each of the nine counties that make up the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – many of them several times – meeting with the district attorneys as well as several local police chiefs and other law enforcement agencies to share information and ideas about how to serve the community.
Additionally, the Eastern District has participated in multiple targeted working groups to address specific areas of particular concern in the community. For example, in February 2018, the Office formed the Opioid Law Enforcement Task Force. Since 2017, the Office has also participated in Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s Gun Violence Task Force to provide assistance with investigating cases involving firearms charges, many of which end up being prosecuted at the state level.
"The Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a prime example of a productive partnership between local, state, and federal governments, all working in the interest of public safety,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “I applaud all of our partners on this one-year anniversary of the PSN re-launch. Collaborative efforts by our law enforcement partners such as this are key to keeping our communities safe."
"The Philadelphia Police Department recognizes that a successful violent crime prevention strategy must be comprehensive, evidence based, measurable, and include partnerships among law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard J. Ross, Jr. “The Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program captures each of these necessary ingredients for success. We are fortunate to have been part of the 2017 program re-launch, and join our partners in celebrating its one year anniversary."
“Every resident in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania deserves to live in a safe community,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “And under my leadership, my Office will continue to aggressively pursue that goal. We will work together, fight harder, and use every tool we can to hold violent criminals accountable to the fullest extent of the law. That is what PSN is all about.”
Law Enforcement Partnerships with Federal Agencies
Fostering relationships with our federal law enforcement partners has been a related area of focus. In particular, the Office’s work with FBI and ATF has contributed to our success in prosecuting violent crime.
“We are proud be a part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative alongside all of our many local, state and federal partners,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Don Robinson. “The public deserves to live peacefully in their communities without the threat of violence.
"Combating violent crime is one of the FBI's highest priorities," said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. "We're committed to this initiative and our productive partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office and our law enforcement colleagues. Together, we’ll keep working to make everybody's neighborhood safer—corner by corner, block by block."
The PSN Call-In Program consists of regular, face-to-face call-ins of individuals who were recently released from state custody. The Call-In program ensures connections to critical assistance and support to the returning offenders.
The STAR Re-entry Court program, which started over a decade ago under the Bush Administration, has continuously been viewed as the leading prisoner re-entry program in the federal system. STAR is a partnership between U.S. Probation, U.S. District Court, the Federal Community Defender Office, and our Office. Together, our team provides intensive supervision and resources to individuals who are returning home to Philadelphia from federal prison and are at high risk of recidivism for violent crime.
The Eastern District’s Mental Health Court was selected this past year as a pilot program for Congress’ 21st Century Cures Act. Just last month, our Office participated in a two-day training session with other federal judicial districts with similar programs, to share ideas and learn about best practices for successfully implementing the program.
Later this month, Relapse Prevention Court will launch in the Eastern District, and the Office will be a key contributor in identifying participants for this program. The goal of Relapse Prevention Court is to maximize opportunities for long-term recovery from substance use and to facilitate successful completion of the participant’s term of supervised release.
Improvements to Community Safety
The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive years of increases in violent crime, the nationwide violent crime rate is now trending in the right direction and began to decline in the first year of the Trump Administration – decreasing by approximately one percent in 2017. The nationwide homicide rate showed a similar decrease, by nearly one and a half percent in 2017. The preliminary information we have for 2018 gives us reason for optimism that our renewed efforts are continuing to pay off.