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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 5, 2018

U.S. Attorney Canova Announces 2018 Highlights of Project Safe Neighborhoods to Promote Safe Communities in Northern Florida

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Jeff 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, federal, state and local law enforcement are collaborating to identify the most violent criminals and the most violent areas within our communities and are using all their collective resources to make our neighborhoods safer. As part of this strategy, PSN also partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Throughout the past year, 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.

U.S. Attorney Canova said: “We are committed to pursuing public safety in the Northern District of Florida through prosecutions of violent criminals, collaborations with other law enforcement agencies and the community, and outreach, such as the BLAST Program, which encourages students to build positive relationships with local law enforcement officers and become law-abiding citizens.”

“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.”

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year in the 23 counties of the Northern District of Florida that runs from Pensacola in the west to Gainesville in the east:

Enforcement Actions

Gun Violence Task Forces: the Gun Violence Initiative in Tallahassee and the Gun Crimes Response Team in Pensacola are comprised of investigators and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, State Attorneys’ Offices, ATF, DEA, FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, county sheriffs’ offices, and local police departments.  The task forces meet regularly to share intelligence and discuss ongoing investigations to: strategically identify areas where violent crimes are being committed, identify the persons responsible for committing those crimes, and ensure that adequate resources are being deployed to investigate and prosecute those individuals.

New Violent Crime AUSAs: To increase the safety of our communities, the Department of Justice added new federal prosecutor positions around the country.  The NDFL was allocated two new Assistant United States Attorneys to work on reducing violent crime and supporting the NDFL’s PSN program.  One prosecutor will be placed in Tallahassee and the other in Pensacola.  Read more.

Violent Crime Cases:

In August 2018, a Gainesville man was sentenced to 327 months in prison for abducting a young woman attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and forcing her into sex trafficking through violent methods.  Read more.

In August 2018, Deshawn Wilder, a convicted felon from Tallahassee, was sentenced to 84 months in prison for burglarizing a federal firearms licensee.

In August 2018, Robert Wayne Cornwell from Perry, Florida, was sentenced to 96 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  Cornwell had a violent criminal history that included solicitation to commit murder.  Within a month of being released from prison, he started dealing methamphetamine. During a traffic stop for suspected DUI, he attempted to flee after failing a field sobriety test.  During a struggle with officers, he attempted to grab an officer’s service pistol from the holster.  He was eventually restrained and taken into custody.

In February 2018, a Pensacola convicted felon was sentenced to 147 months in prison for armed carjacking.  Read more.

In December 2017, a former correctional officer from Bay County, Florida, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for assaulting an inmate, resulting in bodily injury.  The government presented evidence that, during his career as a correctional officer, Walker had assaulted at least four inmates.  In this case, the testimony demonstrated that Walker sprayed the inmate with a chemical agent and then struck him repeatedly, resulting in a fractured nose and head wound, which required several staples.  In an attempt to establish that he had acted in self-defense, Walker planted a homemade weapon or “shank.”  Read more.

In November 2017, a Pensacola armed career criminal was sentenced to 224 months in prison for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and for violating his federal supervised release.  He had been convicted previously of crimes dating back to 1987, including first degree robbery, grand theft auto, aggravated assault, and second degree murder.  Read more.

In October 2017, a Niceville convicted felon was sentenced to 135 months in prison for burglarizing a federal firearms licensed dealer.  Officials recovered dozens of firearms, numerous rounds of ammunition, and multiple pieces of tactical equipment, including a gas mask that were all stolen.  Read more.

Community Partnerships

BLAST Program: The BLAST Program offers approximately 50 high school students per event an opportunity to meet representatives of the criminal justice community and ask them questions, share their perceptions of law enforcement, and interact with officers in a familiar setting.  Officers provide students with their perspective on responding to dangerous or uncertain circumstances and the importance of remaining calm and following the officers’ directions in these situations.  The schedule includes discussion sessions, during which students have a chance to participate in role-play with law enforcement officers.

Tallahassee Public Safety Collective: The U.S. Attorney’s Office is a member of the Tallahassee Public Safety Collective, a group of local law enforcement leaders and key community partners working collaboratively to stem community violence and address the factors leading to criminal activity.  The Collective stresses collaboration, intelligence sharing, and citizen partnerships to improve public safety.

Second Chance Employer Summits: The U.S. Attorney’s Office has hosted several events, in collaboration with state, federal, and non-governmental partners, to discuss benefits and challenges of hiring formerly incarcerated individuals.  Former inmates who now have successful careers also shared their reentry experiences.

Improvements to Community Safety

  • The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline.  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 we have for 2018 gives us reason for optimism that our 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.

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.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions 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.  Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General.  To access available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website.  For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.

Topic(s): 
Community Outreach
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Contact: 
For more information, contact: Amy Alexander, Public Information Officer amy.alexander@usdoj.gov
Updated October 5, 2018