The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Mississippi has a history of aggressively and effectively prosecuting gun crime. While recognizing the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the United States Attorney has focused on prosecuting individuals who utilize firearms to commit violent crimes, individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing guns, and individuals who participate in firearms trafficking.
In 2001, the Department of Justice launched the Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative, a comprehensive program designed to combat gun crime within American communities. Recognizing that there is no “one size fits all” strategy that can effectively reduce gun crime, the Department of Justice tasked each United States Attorney with creating a Project Safe Neighborhoods program that would effectively address the particular problems faced by towns and communities within their respective districts.
The Northern District of Mississippi embraced the idea of Project Safe Neighborhoods and has worked diligently since its inception to create strong partnerships with state and local law enforcement. These partnerships have allowed federal agents from agencies such as ATF, DEA, FBI and the US Marshal’s Service to work alongside their local and state law enforcement partners to effectively investigate gun crime in Mississippi communities, to arrest offenders, and to prosecute those individuals in the appropriate state or federal court.
As part of its initial PSN efforts, the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Mississippi identified a number of communities with the highest incidence of gun violence. Based on these statistics, the office initially focused PSN efforts and resources in the towns of Clarksdale and Greenville. Within two years, both of these communities experienced drastic decreases in gun related crimes and violence. The district’s earliest PSN efforts and successes in Clarksdale, Mississippi were documented in a nationally recognized video entitled “The Clarksdale Story.” During the next years, the district expanded its PSN program to encompass other towns and cities across the district.
In 2006, the Department of Justice further expanded the PSN Program to include a focus on gang crime and violence. As a result, the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Mississippi devoted time, effort and resources to gang prevention efforts throughout the District.
While the PSN Initiative and efforts have continued since the program’s inception, in 2017 the US Attorney General instructed each US Attorney’s Office to renew its efforts to reduce violent crime with an enhanced PSN program. Each US Attorney was asked to implement a new PSN plan to combat the most significant violent crime in their District based on five key principles: 1) Leadership; 2) Partnerships; 3) Targeted and prioritized enforcement; 4) Violence Prevention and 5) Accountability. This reinvigorated PSN plan aims to take a comprehensive approach to public safety that includes prevention, enforcement and reentry efforts while still allowing Department of Justice prosecutors to investigate and prosecute violent crimes.
As a part of the PSN programs and to ensure its success, the Department of Justice has provided billions of dollars in grant money to Districts across the nation. In the Northern District of Mississippi, these funds have been used to provide local law enforcement agencies across the district with needed equipment, training, salaries, and overtime pay for officers. In addition, the Northern District of Mississippi has utilized PSN money to fund violence and gang prevention programs, both in the schools and in the community. During the life of the PSN initiative, the Northern District of Mississippi has worked with law enforcement as well as community and faith-based partners as a part of its efforts to prevent crime and to provide assistance to offenders reentering the community after they have served their sentences.
Training has long been a key part of the PSN program. As a part of its PSN efforts, the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Mississippi has provided frequent training to local, federal and state law enforcement, community leaders, social service providers and school personnel. Training opportunities have ranged from “roll call” training with local law enforcement agencies on topics and areas where they have identified a need, to statewide and national training programs that have addressed a myriad of issues that face our communities in the efforts to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
If you have questions about PSN or ideas on ways to make our communities safer, please contact our office.