U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman Announces Progress in Making our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – October 12, 2018
SAN DIEGO – One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. This program focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime. PSN brings together a wide array of community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.
In the Southern District of California (SDCA), the PSN program operates primarily as a collaboration between the United States Attorney’s Office and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. Utilizing intelligence from both local and federal law enforcement, these two prosecutorial offices (the largest two in the region) work to determine which jurisdiction (state or federal) will be able to provide the greatest impact for the community. In the past year, the PSN partnership has frequently resulted in the deployment of federal enforcement resources against violent offenders who might face a much smaller sanction in state court.
Nationally, the FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that the violent crime rate decreased by approximately one percent in 2017, while the homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half percent. Locally, San Diego has achieved its lowest crime rate in the past 49 years and we had the lowest violent crime rate of America’s largest cities last year. A recent SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) report indicates that guns are used less often in violent crimes in San Diego than the national average.
“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.”
“San Diego’s violent crime rate was the lowest of every major city in the nation last year due to effective partnerships,” stated U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Our federal prosecutors work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement agencies to successfully prosecute significant cases involving guns, drugs and gangs and to collaborate on evidence-based prevention efforts. This approach has delivered clear results in the form of safer neighborhoods.”
Between fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018, cases designated and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office under the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program rose 75 percent; from approximately 79 cases in 2017 to 139 cases in fiscal year 2018. These increases occurred at the same time as the United States Attorney’s Office increased the number of cases brought in other priority areas including narcotics trafficking and immigration enforcement. Efforts to increase prosecutions for fiscal year 2019 are already underway. Three recent examples highlight the types of the cases brought for federal prosecution, all aimed at making the Southern District of California safer:
- On September 6, 2018, Lorne Turman pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in a series of armed robberies throughout San Diego County. See U.S. v. Bickham, et al., 18-CR-2557-JLS. In his plea agreement, Turman admitted that he used a shotgun to rob a series of local businesses (known to local media as the “Grinch Bandit” robbery series). Under the terms of the agreement, the United States will be recommending a 42-year prison sentence for Turman.
- On July 18, 2018, Tony Hwong, a Westside Luni Mob gang member, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for possessing a firearm while selling methamphetamine. See U.S. v. Hwong, 18-CR-059-WQH. Hwong was originally arrested by members of the San Diego Police Department during a probation sweep but was diverted for federal prosecution based on the threat he posed to the community.
- On October 2, 2018, Chad Kipper, the former CEO of the Freedom Fighters Foundation, was convicted of felony gun trafficking. See U.S. v. Kipper, 18-CR-2460-BAS. Kipper admitted that he had falsely claimed to be an Arizona resident during fourteen firearms-purchases in Arizona during 2016. Learn more about Kipper’s prosecution.
The United States Attorney’s Office furthers PSN’s prevention mission by convening stakeholders, forging diverse partnerships, providing mentors, and using the following novel approaches to reduce violent crime:
- Because youth are often groomed and recruited by gangs before middle school, the USAO partnered with community groups as well as county health, local law enforcement and school officials to launch “Success Agents,” an innovative program that offers at-risk 4th graders at Porter Elementary mentors and wrap-around support from 4th through 8th grade. A USAO-led team meets weekly with Success Agents kids, providing interactive workshops to improve decision-making, foster relationships and academic achievement, and expand horizons. Based on promising initial results, the San Diego Juvenile Justice Commission honored Success Agents for impressive teamwork in action and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office expanded it earlier this year to an additional elementary school.
- The USAO coordinates an 8-week Project Lead program in targeted elementary schools in a Southeast San Diego neighborhood affected by gangs and violent crime. The team’s efforts significantly expanded youth education on drug, alcohol and gang refusal skills, preparing more than 1,500 vulnerable 5th graders to make wise choices when asked to join gangs, use drugs, tag a building, or skip school. The program also builds strong relationships between students and federal law enforcement agents from many agencies, including the USAO, CBP, the Secret Service, and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
- The USAO participates in the city’s creative Community Assistance Support Team (CAST), a stakeholder group designed to curb gang violence by partnering police with former gang and community members. Members work together immediately after shootings to prevent retaliation and escalation. Through CAST, the USAO meets regularly with police officers, Deputy Sheriffs, community activists, local pastors and community leaders to review violent incidents, discuss resources and needs, share information, and solve problems.
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.