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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan Announces Progress in Making our Communities Safer through Project Safe Neighborhoods

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. 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 develop comprehensive solutions to address them.  As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

“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.”  

Throughout the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida has 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.

“We cannot prosecute an end to violent crime in our South Florida communities,” stated U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan.  “Only by reinforcing and amplifying our law enforcement and public partnerships can we collectively combat the violent threats to our safety, security and well-being.  The Project Safe Neighborhoods program exemplifies the collective strategies that are needed in order to target the most egregious offenders, reinvigorate our neighborhoods and support our returning citizens.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida remains entrenched in our collaborative efforts to protect, educate and connect with our local residents.”

In order to amplify the enforcement and community impact of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida spearheaded, and has continued to support, the Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP).  Through the VRP, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal, state and local law enforcement allies have sought to dismantle the most violent criminal networks that plague communities throughout the Southern District of Florida using a three-prong, holistic approach.  First, in order to advance our enforcement efforts, Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) are specially assigned to handle matters within designated “hot spot” areas. Working with their law enforcement partners, the AUSAs facilitate community relations, gather intelligence, and identify the most prolific, violent offenders for prosecution. The collective mission is to ensure the safety of our community. Second, the VRP supports community based programs and initiatives designed to educate the public and prevent participation in criminal activity.  Third, the VRP provides services to inmates scheduled to return to the community (returning citizens) so that they have the resources, support and skills needed for a successful reintegration.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership that brings together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, provides additional crime-fighting support in South Florida.  The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, dismantle and prosecute members of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations and enterprises.

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, let us highlight some of the recent local enforcement actions and community impact initiatives:

Enforcement Actions

Last month, a federal jury returned convictions against ten members and associates of a violent criminal enterprise that was the focus of VRP and OCDETF enforcement initiatives (U.S. v. Glass, et al, Case. No. 17cr20307). According to evidence introduced at trial, the racketeering enterprise, which used names such as the Dub Side Blood Family (DSBF), conducted unlawful business practices and controlled the South Gwen Cherry Housing Complex in the Allapattah neighborhood of Miami for over seventeen years.  The criminal enterprise members routinely robbed victims at gunpoint and sold narcotics.  The enterprise’s criminal spree included armed robberies of drug dealers and five commercial robberies. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/miami-based-violent-criminal-enterprise-members-and-associates-convicted-trial.

The following are examples of PSN sentencings during September 2018:

In July, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that since April of 2017, sixteen Saint Lucie County Residents had been sentenced to federal prison on firearms and drug trafficking charges as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative to combat violent crime in the northern area of the federal district. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/sixteen-saint-lucie-county-residents-sentenced-federal-prison-firearms-and-drug

Community Partnerships

Simultaneously, and equally as important as the VRP’s law enforcement efforts are the U.S. Attorney’s Office community outreach and crime prevention initiatives.

Project Sentry and Project Safe Childhood: During interactive programs, volunteers teach students to avoid violence by recognizing dangers in the community, reporting problems and peacefully resolving issues.  The Project Sentry program focuses on guns, gangs, and violence deterrence, while Project Safe Childhood educates the youth regarding bullying, cyberbullying, and internet safety.  The programs are approved in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County schools.

Making Smarter Choices Fieldtrips: Volunteers speak to middle school students, who visit the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Miami federal courthouses, about the importance of “Making Smarter Choices.”   During the program, students participate in mock trial exercises.

Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) Summer Camp: This overnight camp provides at-risk youth, ages 9-12 years, with the self-esteem, leadership and teamwork skills needed to resist drugs, gangs, violent behavior, bullying, and cyberbullying.

Pre-K Reading Program: During monthly reading sessions, governmental, law enforcement and public sector volunteers engage with 3 to 5 year olds in disadvantaged communities. At the end of every reading session, each child is given a book to take home.  More than 11,000 books have been shared with our local children.

Peace Ambassadors Leadership Program: The Peace Ambassadors Leadership Program empowers high school juniors to be "change agents" in their family, school, and community.  Academic excellence, courage, character, compassion, self-esteem, and personal responsibility are championed.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS): Volunteers mentor and provide educational assistance to students at local schools through BBBS.

United Way Reading Pals Program: During the academic year, volunteers read to and mentor Pre-K students at the Culmer Head Start Preschool in Overtown.

Monthly Community Resource Fairs and Food Distribution Programs:  The programs provide free food and essential services to local residents.

Additional information regarding the VRP initiatives is available at usafls.vrp@usdoj.gov (link sends e-mail) or by calling (305) 961-9134.

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.
  • Attorney General Sessions announced today that the Southern District of Florida has been allocated $733,871 in PSN funding.
  • Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced grants that will directly impact our local schools. 
    • The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) awarded grants to implement school safety measures including coordination with law enforcement, training for law enforcement to prevent student violence against others and self, target hardening measures, and technology for expedited notification of law enforcement during an emergency.  The grant recipients included: the Village of Miami Shores; the City of Pembroke Pines; City of Homestead and Broward County.
    • The School Board of Broward County, Florida received two grants from the Office of Justice Program’s (OJP) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA):
      • A $379,346 grant under the Threat Assessment and Technology Reporting Program will support training to create and operate threat assessment and crisis intervention teams and to develop technology for local or regional anonymous reporting systems. This technology may be in the form of a mobile phone application, hotline, or website.
      • A $500,000 grant under the Prevention and Mental Health Training Program will provide training and education on preventing violence and effectively responding to related mental health crises.
  • OJP BJA also announced yesterday that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was awarded a $733,871 grant under PSN to create and foster safer neighborhoods through a sustained reduction in violent crime, including, but not limited to, addressing criminal gangs and the felonious possession and use of firearms and projects that support  innovative cooperative efforts and partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement engaged in a unified approach led by the U.S. Attorney to identify and prevent violent crime.
  • On October 1, 2018, the Department of Justice announced grant awards under BJA’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to state, local and tribal jurisdictions to develop and implement efforts to identify, respond to, treat, and support those impacted by the opioid epidemic.
    • A number of awards were given to our South Florida partners, including: the City of Miami ($883,586 to provide staffing and treatment resources within our nation’s jails and upon reentry into the community, as well as funding to support opioid courts which connect new arrestees to treatment services immediately upon arrest and $750,000 under the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program), Miami-Dade County ($1,000,999 under the Opioid Affected Youth Initiative) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America ($1,250,000 to provide mentoring services to children impacted by the opioid epidemic).
  • On September 25, 2018, OJP BJA announced that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was awarded a $1,000,000 grant under the PSN Innovations in Community-Based Crime Reduction Program (CBCR).  The CBCR program supports local and tribal communities to effectively target and address violent crime issues in distressed, high-crime neighborhoods through coordinated cross-sector approaches that are linked with broader neighborhood revitalization efforts.  The goal of CBCR is to reduce crime, increase trust, and improve community safety as part of a comprehensive strategy to rebuild and revitalize neighborhoods. Through a broad cross-sector partnership team, including neighborhood residents, CBCR grantees target neighborhoods with hot spots of violent and serious crime and employ data-driven, cross-sector strategies to accomplish this goal.
  • In addition, the City of Miami was recently chosen to be a National Public Safety Partnership (PSP) city, one of 31 cities chosen to participate in a coordinated effort to reduce violent crime.  The PSP was established in June 2017 under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which emphasizes the role of the Department of Justice in combating violent crime.

Many of 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. To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods visit https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-announces-reinvigoration-project-safe-neighborhoods-and-other and https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/attorney-general-sessions-announces-reinvigoration-project-safe-neighborhoods-and-other.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated October 12, 2018