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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 4, 2019

U.S. Attorney David J. Freed Announces Progress In Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods

FBI Uniform Crime Report Shows 3.9 Drop in Violent Crime in 2018

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, 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.  According to FBI’s Uniform Crime Report released this week, 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.”

“In neighborhoods negatively impacted by violent crime across the Middle District of Pennsylvania I hear the same refrain from law abiding citizens: focus your efforts on the violent offenders that are preventing us from enjoying our homes and forcing us to keep our children inside,” said U.S. Attorney Freed.  “We have heard the call. Targeted enforcement and tough cooperative prosecutions are a proven formula for reducing violent crime. Project Safe Neighborhoods allows us to direct law enforcement assets to the areas of greatest need throughout the District.  Our extremely strong cooperative relationships among local, state and federal investigators and prosecutors mean that the right offenders are prosecuted in the right venue for the right crimes.  Nothing is more important to us than public safety.  PSN proves it.”

As we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:

Enforcement Actions

The Middle District of Pennsylvania’ strategy for reducing and preventing violent crime in the Middle District focuses on the Harrisburg, York, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport areas. Federal, state and local law enforcement officers joined forces to coordinate their activities in high-crime areas and vigorously enforce the laws, which punish gun offenses, gang activity, drug-related crimes and other acts of violence. These partnerships have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of federal prosecutions against the most violent individuals in our district. 

Just this month, Maurice L. Ross, a previously convicted felon, was sentenced to 77 years’ imprisonment for committing armed robbery of a convenience store on three separate occasions in Harrisburg.

Derek Pelker was sentenced in July 2019, to 533 months’ imprisonment for the armed robbery of four banks. Pelker’s co-defendants received sentences that ranged from 132 months’ imprisonment to nine months imprisonment for their involvement in the robberies.

Anthony Johnson was convicted on May 16, 2019, following a two-day jury trial, for Hobbs Act Robbery and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence in York.  Johnson and his co-conspirator robbed and shot the victim in the head.

In U.S. v. Adrian Ortiz-Diaz, et. al., U.S. v. Kevin Robles, et al. and U.S. v. Jose Miguel Guman Ruiz, et. al., twenty-nine individuals were charged in March 2019 in three separate indictments, for a drug trafficking conspiracy that entailed kilogram quantities of cocaine hydrochloride sent from Puerto Rico through the United States Postal Service to Pennsylvania and being purchased in California and transported to Pennsylvania, which was then distributed to customers in Dauphin, Cumberland, Northumberland and Union Counties.

In December 2018, Tyree Eatmon, a member of the violent York based gang known as “Southside” was sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment for his activities that ravaged the York area for over a decade.  Eatmon assaulted, kicked and stomped a member of a rival gang.  During the altercation, multiple shots were fired striking an innocent bystander in the head, causing permanent damage. Four Southside gang members have received a sentence of life imprisonment for their gang activities.

Community Partnerships

The Middle District of Pennsylvania joined community and law enforcement partners in York as part of the York Group Violence Initiative (GVI). GVI is designed to reduce street group–involved homicide and gun violence. Two call–ins of 17 persons were conducted in 2018.  The participants were educated on the effects of gun violence on themselves and on their community.  They heard from law enforcement officials and received information from community outreach members who provide mentoring and other services.  Several of the participants have contacted the GVI project manager for help with job placement, securing household items, finding temporary living facilities and help with childcare issues. 

The Middle District joined with the York City Police Department, the York City Mayor, the York County District Attorney’s Office, the York City Community Street Solders, FBI, DEA, and ATF to participate in a community walk on May 22, 2019 in York. U.S. Attorney Freed acknowledged the work performed by federal, state, and local law enforcement by participating in a community walk and promoting the dialogue between law enforcement and the community. The community walk was meant to demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are committed to working with each other and community organizations and residents to reduce crime in these areas. 

Improvements to Community Safety

  • For the second consecutive year, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased when compared with the previous year’s statistics, according to FBI figures released today. In 2018, the number of violent crimes was down 3.3 percent from the 2017 number.
  • The 2018 statistics also show the estimated rate of violent crime was 368.9 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. The violent crime rate fell 3.9 percent when compared with the 2017 rate.
  • According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2018, violent crime in Pennsylvania decreased from 40,030 events in 2017 to 39,192 events in 2018.  According to the report, violent crimes include: Murder and non-negligent manslaughter; Rape; Aggravated assault; and Property crime.

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 of Justice 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. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, go to www.justice.gov/psn.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated October 4, 2019