U.S. Attorney announces progress in making our communities safer through Project Safe Neighborhoods
ATLANTA – The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announces the one-year anniversary of the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program that Attorney General Jeff Sessions designated as the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’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 to develop comprehensive solutions to address them. 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.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “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.”
“Our collaborative partnerships with federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as community stakeholders, have proven to be successful in reducing violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We are strategically and aggressively working to make our communities safer by keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, drug dealers, and gang members by identifying and prosecuting these violent repeat offenders.”
“The Project Safe Neighborhoods program has produced consistent results,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Arthur Peralta. ”Our communities deserve to be safe from violent criminals and PSN allows ATF, and our federal, state and local partners, to focus on the criminals who choose to use guns to commit their crimes and terrorize our communities. ATF will continue to participate in and support this very important initiative. Anyone who shoots a gun in the commission of a crime is a danger to us all and it is imperative that we focus our efforts on identifying, investigating and arresting these criminals.”
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, our office is able to highlight many of our PSN actions over the past year:
PSN is working in partnership with local and state law enforcement to ensure that federal efforts are focused on the most violent offenders, by specifically:
- Maintaining ongoing efforts to reduce violent crime in the English Avenue neighborhood of Atlanta and by also identifying additional communities in Clayton, Henry, and Troup Counties as PSN target enforcement areas. These enhanced enforcement efforts include targeted crime prevention in neighborhood schools and focused deterrence concerning gang-affiliated offenders currently incarcerated, but pending release back into local communities; and
- Building on the success of the District’s Violent Repeat Offender (VRO) program implemented in 2012 in metro Atlanta to address persistent violent crime. The VRO initiative was expanded to include the Rome, Gainesville, and Newnan Divisions. Read more about the VRO program here.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the following cases as a part of PSN’s increased focus on targeting drivers of violence within our local communities:
- United States v. Jeffrey Alan Bourassa, et al.: Twenty-three members and associates of the Ghostface Gangsters prison gang were charged in a 21-count indictment on February 8, 2018, in relation to conduct ranging from wire fraud to murder. The Ghostface Gangsters originated in the Cobb County, Georgia, jail in 2000 and has since spread through Georgia jails, prisons, and beyond. Read more on this case here.
- United States v. Terrance Rainey, et al.: Terrance Rainey, Latrell Parson, Talante Fisher-Bland, Brittni Dixon, Martavius Askew, and Donnisha Miles were sentenced for trafficking 33 firearms from Georgia to New York. Law enforcement officers recovered several of the guns from convicted felons who had used the firearms in committing various crimes in New York. Read more on this case here.
- United States v. Sherman Jackson, et al.: Sherman Jackson, William Jackson, Gerren Johnson, and Brendan Person were sentenced for their respective roles in a criminal scheme to unlawfully ship firearms to more than 10 countries. The defendants sold more than 70 firearms to international buyers at extremely marked-up prices. ATF coordinated with its international law enforcement partners to recover firearms sold by the defendants in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Zambia. Read more on this case here.
Additionally, the correlation between domestic violence and firearms pose a significant risk to families and public safety, and our office now supports local prosecutors and law enforcement whose efforts may be hampered by a combination of weak state firearms laws and overburdened court systems. For example, it is not a crime under Georgia state law for an individual convicted of family violence battery to possess a firearm. Our office is utilizing the revitalized PSN program to fill this prosecutorial gap.
Our office also implemented a comprehensive crime prevention and reentry strategy to complement PSN’s enforcement efforts by partnering with agencies such as the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, EGRESS Consultants and Services, LLC, the Offender Alumni Association, and Freedom is a Choice, Inc. Read more about these partnerships here.
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 for 2018 provides 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.
- In our District, violent crime arrests slightly declined from 2016 to 2017. For example, in 2017 charges for gang members decreased thirty-two percent compared to 2016. Gang member arrests involving guns also dropped by one-third and their violent-felony crime arrests were down by forty percent.
- In addition, ATF’s ongoing response to the spike in gun trafficking led to a dramatic decrease in the number of thefts from gun stores. For example,
- In 2013, the ATF received reports of 25 burglaries of licensed gun dealers in Georgia resulting in thefts of 338 guns.
- In 2014, the ATF received reports of 34 burglaries of licensed gun dealers in Georgia with a loss of 307 guns.
- In 2015, the ATF received reports of 33 burglaries of licensed gun dealers in Georgia resulting in thefts of 429 guns.
- In 2016, ATF received reports of burglaries of 50 federally licensed firearms dealers in Georgia, with a staggering increase in thefts of more than 1,000 firearms.
- In 2017, the ATF received reports of 23 burglaries of licensed gun dealers in Georgia, with a substantial decrease in thefts of 241guns.
- So far in 2018, 15 burglaries of federally licensed firearms dealers have been reported, resulting in thefts of 259 guns.
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. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.
For the referenced cases, members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.