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Press Release

United States Attorney Matthew Krueger Announces Progress in Making Communities Safer through Project Safe Neighborhoods

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

Two years ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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 two years, the Department of Justice has 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. According to FBI’s 2018 Crime in the United States Report released recently, the violent crime rate decreased for the second consecutive year, down 3.9 percent from the 2017 numbers. 

“The revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a major success,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “It packs a powerful punch by combining advanced data with local leadership, further reducing violence in communities across the country and improving overall public safety. U.S. Attorneys continue to focus their enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals and work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal police. The Justice Department’s relationships across the board have never been stronger.”

United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger explained that throughout the past year, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has continued to prioritize reducing violent crime through partnerships with law enforcement, local organizations and community members, especially in its PSN focus area of Milwaukee. Remarkable progress has been made in the City of Milwaukee. As of September 30, 2019, compared to the same time in 2017, homicides are down 22% and non-fatal shootings are down 30% in the City of Milwaukee.       

“Project Safe Neighborhoods reflects a widespread commitment by stakeholders—law enforcement, local organizations, and community members—to provide the security necessary for our neighborhoods to flourish,” said United States Attorney Krueger. “We are working together to focus enforcement efforts on the most violent individuals who cause most of the problems. Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, DEA, and ATF are working closely with local law enforcement to bring impactful prosecutions.

Particular credit is owed to Chief Alfonso Morales of the Milwaukee Police Department for adopting cutting-edge practices like the Shoot Review process. We know enforcement efforts alone cannot solve the problem, so PSN also promotes prevention and reentry efforts. We are on the right track: Milwaukee has seen a dramatic decrease in violent crime since 2017.”

United States Attorney Krueger also highlighted some of the District’s PSN actions over the past year:

Representative Enforcement Actions in PSN Focus Area of Milwaukee

On February 4, 2019, Deon Batton was sentenced to 12½ years in prison after he pled guilty to committing five armed robberies in Milwaukee and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. His co-defendant, Laura Walton, was previously sentenced to 10 years in prison after she pled guilty to committing five armed robberies and one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. This case was investigated by the FBI’s Milwaukee Area Violent Crimes Task Force, the Milwaukee Police Department, and the Milwaukee County District Attorney Investigator’s Office.

  • On February 26, 2019, Lamont Walker was sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release after Walker pled guilty to attempting to rob a Walgreens store and brandishing a gun during the attempted robbery. This case was investigated by the FBI’s Milwaukee Area Violent Crimes Task Force and the Milwaukee Police Department.
  • On June 5, 2019, Jonathan C. Copeland was indicted for possession with intent to distribute at least 100 grams of heroin, at least 40 grams of fentanyl, cocaine, and marijuana. He was also charged with possessing firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking crime and possessing firearms after having been convicted of multiple felonies. The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Gang Task Force, which includes Task Force Officers from the Milwaukee Police Department.
  • On July 16, 2019, Jimmy D. Bates and 14 other defendants with conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine in Milwaukee. Certain defendants were also charged with possession of firearms in furtherance of the conspiracy; unlawful possession of firearms by a felon; and conspiracy to commit robberies of others who possessed drugs. The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, North Central High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Milwaukee Police Department, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Representative Enforcement Actions in Other Parts of the Eastern District of Wisconsin                          

  • On June 24, 2019, Tou W. Vang, a/k/a “Meng Vang” was sentenced to 15 years for possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and for possessing with the intent to distribute over 50 grams of pure methamphetamine. The case was investigated by the Appleton Police Department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
  • On September 12, 2019, Justin S. Smith and William D. Balgie, were charged with committing three armed bank robberies in Allenton, Wisconsin; Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin; and Glenbeulah, Wisconsin. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 25 years in prison for each robbery. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Milwaukee Area Violent Crimes Task Force, the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Investigator’s Office, the Menomonee Falls Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Waupun Police Department, the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Office, the Slinger Police Department, the Plymouth Police Department, the Beaver Dam Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Offices in Sheboygan, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.
  • On September 30, 2019, Nicholas O. Nelson was sentenced to 5 years in prison, followed by 36 months on supervised release, for the illegal possession of a firearm. Fox Crossing Police Department investigated the case with assistance from the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory.
  • On October 2, 2019, Joshua J. Klein of Fond du Lac was sentenced to 18 years, 9 months for possessing with the intent to distribute heroin and marijuana, and for possessing two firearms in furtherance of the drug trafficking. Klein previously had been convicted of multiple felonies, including unlawful firearm possession and drug trafficking. The case was investigated by the Lake Winnebago Area Metro Drug Unit, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Fond du Lac Police Department.

 Community Partnerships

In addition to efforts to prosecute the violent offenders, district-based police and prosecutor teams work with community organizations to restore properties to their highest quality, assist residents and business owners in creating and enforcing positive neighborhood norms, and create neighborhood crime-reduction plans focused on prevention of gun violence.

PSN includes federal grants to promote crime-reduction strategies. As was recently announced, a PSN grant has been awarded to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office and the City of Milwaukee to help create a Community Victim Witness Program that will provide services to victims of firearm-related violence.

PSN is also focused on positive prisoner reentry, which consists of regular face-to-face call-ins of individuals aged sixteen to twenty-six who recently were released from local, state, or federal correctional institutions. Notification sessions are organized and facilitated by community-based agencies that provide trauma-informed and healing-focused care to those involved in the criminal justice system. The program ensures connections to critical assistance and support to the returning offenders and community resources and services. Additionally, “Employment Expos” were organized in Milwaukee and Racine in order to introduce agencies that work with reentering individuals to employers who may be interested in hiring such individuals. 

Improvements to Community Safety

  • The FBI’s official crime data for 2018 reflects for the second consecutive year, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased when compared with the previous year’s statistics. In 2018, violent crime was down 3.3 percent from the 2017 number. Property crimes also dropped 6.3 percent, marking the 16th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined.
  • The preliminary information we have for 2019 gives us reason for optimism that our efforts are continuing to pay off. It shows that violent crime continues to decrease from 2018.
  • In the City of Milwaukee, since 2017, homicides have decreased 22% as of September 30, 2019.
  • In the City of Milwaukee, since 2017, non-fatal shootings have decreased 30% as of September 30, 2019. 

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. The Department, in 2017, as part renewed its 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.

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Updated October 7, 2019