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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington Announces Progress in Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods

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

Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, observed that 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 all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community, including locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

In support of the Department’s PSN programs throughout the country, on October 3rd the Attorney General announced awards of nearly $28 million in grant funding to combat violent crime through PSN and another $3 million for training and technical assistance to develop and implement violent crime reduction strategies and enhance services and resources for victims of violent crime. Over the past year, the Department has partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make American neighborhoods safer.

The grants announced on October 3rd build on Attorney General Sessions’ commitment to reducing violent crime in America, as directed by President Trump’s February 2017 Executive Order. The Department has distributed additional resources and built up strong partnerships with local law enforcement in communities plagued by violent crime. Since the announcement of the reinvigoration of the PSN program in October 2017, the Department of Justice has increased the number of federal prosecutors focused on violent crime by over 300, directed its resources to improving cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, restored local control of police agencies by reining in excessive use of consent decrees, reformed civil asset forfeiture and restored asset-sharing with state and local law enforcement, and helped fund over 800 hundred officers in police departments across America.

“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.”

Through the enhanced PSN, the Department is targeting the most violent criminals in the most violent areas, utilizing policing tools that did not exist even a few years ago. Tools like crime gun intelligence centers (CGIC), which combine intelligence from gunshot detection systems, ballistics, gun tracing, and good old-fashioned police work, help to develop real-time leads on the “trafficker sand trigger pullers” who are fueling the violence in their communities. By using modern technologies and cutting-edge police work, the Justice Department is deploying resources strategically to provide the greatest return on our community-based anti-violence efforts.

United States Attorneys across the country are implementing Attorney General Sessions’ reinvigorated PSN Program by developing and tailoring violent crime reduction approaches specific to the challenges and the unique resources of their respective Judicial Districts.

  • In general, every PSN program incorporates these elements:
  • Leadership by the United States Attorney to convene all partners;
  • Partnerships with the community and at all levels of law enforcement;
  • Targeted enforcement efforts that:
  • utilize the full range of available data, methods, and technologies to identify the offenders that are driving violent crime rates in the most violent locations in the district; and
  • ensure prosecution of those offenders in the federal, state, local, or tribal system – whichever provides the most certain and appropriate sanction;
  • Prevention of additional violence through efforts such as:
  • ensuring public awareness of the violent crime reduction strategy and results;
  • communicating directly with offenders about the consequences of their violent behaviors; and
  • supporting local crime prevention and offender reentry efforts;
  • Accountability for results based on outcomes (reduction in violent crime), not merely outputs (numbers of investigations or prosecutions).

The United States Attorneys are using powerful federal laws against the criminals driving the violent crime in their communities. In fiscal year 2018, the Department brought cases against more violent criminals than ever before—increasing by approximately 15 percent than the Department’s previous record set just last year. Additionally, in 2018 the Department set another record by charging approximately 20 percent more criminals with federal firearms offenses than it had in 2017, which is the most in the Department’s history.

United States Attorney Joseph H. Harrington said, “Project Safe Neighborhoods continues to be a priority in the Eastern District of Washington as we work to partner with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for violent crime in the District and pursue criminal prosecution. Throughout the past year, the United States Attorney’s Office has worked with its law enforcement partners to reduce violent crime. As part of the United States Attorney’s Office’s commitment to the PSN program, prosecutorial resources have been repurposed and enhanced to assist in the enforcement efforts to make our communities safer.”

In the Eastern District of Washington, the PSN program primarily targets gang-related gun violence, crimes of domestic violence in which a firearm is involved, and armed career criminals – those that have multiple drug-trafficking and/or violent felony convictions. The PSN program, however, is not limited to firearm-related offenses. As drug-trafficking activity has long been recognized as a “neighborhood” safety concern, Eastern District of Washington’s PSN program also focuses on disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations and the local street dealers distributing methamphetamine, heroin, and opioid-based pills. As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, the following examples highlight some of the PSN activities in the Eastern District of Washington during the past year:

Apprehension of Violent Offenders with Outstanding Washington State Warrants:

  • In June 2018, the U.S. Marshal Service partnered with local law enforcement, including the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force (“PNVOTF”), which is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, to conduct “Operation Hopscotch.” The operation, conducted over an eight-day period, resulted in the apprehension and arrests of 55 individuals in the District (concentrating on Grant, Chelan and Douglas Counties) with outstanding warrants for violent felonies and/or sex offenses. Many of the arrested individuals had extensive criminal histories that included violence, drug-trafficking, and possession of weapons.

Enforcement of Federal Statutes:

  • During the first three quarters of 2018, approximately 80 persons were charged with Federal firearm-rated offenses. Many of these persons were also charged with drug-trafficking offenses. The types of offenses charged include being a previously convicted felon in possession of a firearm, being an unlawful alien in possession of a firearm, making a false statement in the process of attempting to purchase a firearm, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense, and possession of a machine gun or other destructive device.

Significant Federal Sentences for Drug-Trafficking and Firearm Offenses:

  • Additionally, throughout this past year, a number of PSN investigations and prosecutions for drug trafficking, firearm, and violent offenses have resulted in significant and impactful sentences:
  • Daniel Woolem, a resident of Moxee, Washington, was prosecuted and found guilty, after a jury trial, of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. In February 2018, Woolem was sentenced to approximately 20 years in federal prison.
  • Cameron C. Butler, formerly of Broward County, Florida, was prosecuted for possession of an unregistered destructive device (a Molotov cocktail), interstate stalking, and possession of child pornography. In March 2018, Butler was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.
  • Jose Martin Aguilar, a resident of Pasco, Washington, was prosecuted for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In March 2018, Aguilar was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison.
  • Miles Barton Nichols, a resident of Pasco Washington, was prosecuted and found guilty, after two jury trials, of possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. In March 2018, Nichols was sentenced to a mandatory life term in federal prison.
  • Jared Ryan Marcum, a resident of Pasco, Washington, was prosecuted for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute heroin, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. In May 2018, Marcum was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
  • Johnny Andres Asuncion, III, a resident of Yakima, Washington, was prosecuted and found guilty, after a jury trial, of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. In May 2018, based on his extensive criminal history, Asuncion was sentenced to a mandatory life term in federal prison.
  • Joseph Trevino, a resident of Malott, Washington, was prosecuted for domestic assault by a habitual offender. In June 2018, Trevino was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
  • Joey Alan Yamada, a resident of Spokane, Washington, was arrested on drug-trafficking and firearm possession charges and prosecuted possessing with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. In July 2018, Yamada was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison.
  • Angel Abel Campos, a resident of Toppenish, Washington, and a Sureno gang member, was prosecuted for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and participating in the discharge of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. In August 2018, Campos was sentenced to over 14 years in federal prison.
  • Michael G. Painter, a resident of Spokane, Washington, was prosecuted for possessing with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. In August 2018, Painter was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

Educational/Preventative Partnerships:

  • As part of the EDWA PSN program, the USAO has joined forces with the Firearm Crime Enforcement Committee (FACE). This program presents information to convicted felons in area prisons. An Assistant U.S. Attorney, United States Probation Officers, Washington State Department of Corrections Officers, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm Agents and others meet with felons who have been pre-screened as likely qualifying for the Armed Career Penalty if convicted of a subsequent firearms violation. For the prisoners who are nearing release, the FACE panel presents information regarding penalties that will be imposed for subsequent convictions. The panel also provides resources to help these prisoners make decisions that will keep them from returning to prison.

These examples of PSN activities in the Eastern District of Washington reflect the symbiotic partnerships that exist among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement, as well as local communities, to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

The Department has already started to observe positive signs of progress under PSN nationwide. The FBI’s Crime in the United States Report for 2017 reflects that the troubling increases in violent crime from 2015 and 2016 are beginning to reverse. The report estimates that 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 for 2018 gives reason for optimism that the PSN 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. PSN is working.

Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods at



Updated October 11, 2018

Project Safe Neighborhoods