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. Each PSN program was instructed to focus on five key elements:
1) Partnerships; 2) Strategic Planning; 3) Training; 4) Outreach; and 5) Accountability.
The Northern District of Mississippi embraced the idea of Project Safe Neighborhoods and has worked diligently throughout the past ten years to create strong partnerships with state and local law enforcement. These partnerships allow federal agents from agencies such as ATF and DEA to work alongside their local 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 a part of its initial strategic planning 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 communities experienced drastic decreases in gun-related crimes and violence. The district’s PSN efforts and success in Clarksdale, Mississippi, have been documented in a nationally recognized video entitled “The Clarksdale Story.” If you would like to received a DVD of "The Clarksdale Story" please contact us. A limited number of copies are available while supplies last. While the U.S. Attorney continues to work with our state and local partners in both Clarksdale and Greenville, the district’s PSN program has expanded to encompass other towns and cities across our district.
As a part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Attorney 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 they have identified to statewide and national training programs that address a myriad of issues that face our communities in our efforts to prevent and prosecute gun crime. National and state-wide training classes focus not just on effective investigation and prosecution of gun crime but also prevention of gun crime. By focusing on prevention of gun crime, we are able to involve our entire community in the PSN efforts and attack the problem of violent gun crime in a comprehensive and coordinated way.
One goal of the PSN program has been to educate the public about federal gun laws. The district has launched a variety of media campaigns such as “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” to make the public aware that federal firearm laws prohibit individuals from purchasing guns for others who do not reside in our state or who could not purchase guns on their own. Additional media campaigns have been designed to make Mississippians aware that felons may not legally possess firearms and that the consequences of illegally possessing a gun include prison.
In 2006, the Department of Justice expanded the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program to include a focus on gang crime and violence. As a result, the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Mississippi added a variety of anti-gang efforts to its existing PSN program. While gang-related crime is prosecuted in both state and federal courts, the U.S. Attorney has devoted time, effort, and resources to gang prevention efforts throughout the district.
In order to provide the districts and local communities with the tools they need to make their PSN efforts successful, the Department of Justice has provided more than $2 billion to the PSN initiative. In the Northern District of Mississippi, these funds have been utilized 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. These include programs such as GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) in the schools, and after school programs for at risk youth provided by local agencies such as Boys and Girls Clubs and faith based partners. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in this district has worked with local faith-based partners to provide assistance to offenders reentering the community after they have served their sentences, including educational type programs and job training and placement programs.