Community Based Initiatives
Randy Katz, Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney
James D. Smith, Law Enforcement Community Coordinator (LECC)
One of the primary missions of the United States Attorney's Office is to ensure that federal crimes affecting the people in the Southern District of Florida are investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted, convicted, and punished. Common sense and experience have taught us, however, that we cannot prosecute, arrest, and punish our way out of the problems that illegal drug use, violent crime, and criminal gangs visit upon our community. Prosecution alone will not eliminate the threat they pose to our way of life. We know that every sector of our community has an important role to play in our efforts to put an end to these problems.
To this end, the Justice Department has implemented several special emphasis initiatives. These initiatives are aimed at empowering neighborhoods by strengthening partnerships, coordination, and collaboration between and among law enforcement agencies, government agencies, non-profit community groups, faith-based organizations, and the people who live and work in our neighborhoods. The idea is simple: working together as a community, we have the power to make South Florida a better, safer place to live.
As do other federal districts, the South Florida USAO has a Law Enforcement Community Coordinator (LECC), who is responsible for: developing strategies to enhance coordination and cooperation among law enforcement agencies; helping to implement the DOJ's Project Safe Neighborhoods Program (PSN), which involves gun violence strategies, anti-gang initiatives, and ex-offender reentry strategies; helping to implement outreach programs for Project Safe Childhood (PSC), an anti-bullying, cyber bullying and internet safety program in middle schools; facilitating grass root involvement and cooperation among local governments, law enforcement agencies, and residents through training, conferences, workshops, inter-agency meetings, and community meetings; and addressing violent crime in Miami-Dade County communities of Over town, Liberty City/Little Haiti, Miami Gardens, Goulds, Homestead and Florida City, as well as the cities of Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano, Riviera Beach, West Palm Beach, and Fort Pierce.
The South Florida USAO, through the LECC and staff, hosts annual regional Law Enforcement Coordination Meetings. The four regions include: (1) Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties; (2) Broward County; (3) Palm Beach County; and (4) St. Lucie, Martin, Highlands, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties. At these meetings, law enforcement from approximately 100 federal, state, and local agencies work together to develop effective crime fighting and prevention strategies and to share information and intelligence. These meetings help forge inter-jurisdictional partnerships, which are essential to effectively combat crime and make our communities safer.
In addition, the LECC and staff conducting weekly free food distributions for citizens in many South Florida communities.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the anti-gang, anti-gun violence initiative of the United States Department of Justice. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) began in 2002 as an outgrowth of the former Weed and Seed initiative. The focus of PSN is to bring together law enforcement and prevention and intervention resources to effect reductions in firearms crimes and gang related violence. PSN is also focused on preventing juvenile crime and facilitating successful ex-offender reentry.
Project Safe Neighborhoods, particularly through the Anti-Gang Initiative, emphasizes and facilitates cooperative federal, state, and local prosecution of firearm crimes, violent criminals, repeat violent offenders and gang related criminal activity.
In 2003, one issue noted in that year’s State of the Union address, was the challenge of offender reentry. At that time, it was estimated that close to 600,000 persons would be released each year from state and federal prisons for return to our communities. The challenge was, and is, to afford them successful avenues for reentry that will protect our communities from the consequences of their return to a life of crime.
PSN in the Southern District of Florida has been at the forefront of coordinating, facilitating and empowering reentry initiatives throughout the district. PSN and its partners have:
A. Sponsored anti-gang violence and reentry focused summits, strategic planning and working groups annually since 2004, 2006 and 2008.
B. Funded reentry activities directly and through our Weed and Seed law enforcement and non-profit reentry partners' activities such as: probation and parole patrol follow-ups; reentry coordinator counseling and service provider activities, driver's licenses, civil rights restoration, job training placement, and job placement and transportation assistance, reentry preparation fairs and community wide reentry fairs.
C. Encouraged the development of county-wide Reentry Coordination Coalitions among our reentry partners including local/state and federal prison facilities, halfway-residential confinement facility, job placement agencies, faith-based institutions, elected officials and the media.
D. PSN has assisted coalitions in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties in publishing county-wide reentry assistance directories and in holding reentry and transition fairs and similar activities aimed at getting service providers in touch with re-entering ex-offenders.
The South Florida USAO is committed to advancing the mission of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
Project Safe Childhood
The South Florida USAO is committed to the safety and well-being of every child and has placed a high priority on combating sexual exploitation of minors. Through a network of federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation.
Project Safe Childhood is a Department of Justice initiative launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. The threat of sexual predators soliciting children for physical sexual contact is well-known and serious. The danger of perpetrators who produce, distribute, and possess child pornography is equally dramatic and disturbing. There is often an international dimension to these crimes – for example, some offenders travel to victimize children outside of the United States or view live video streams (in addition to recorded still and video images) of children being abused in foreign countries.
Project Safe Childhood was expanded in May 2011 to encompass all federal crimes involving the sexual exploitation of a minor, including sex trafficking of a minor and crimes against children committed in Indian country. Failure to register as a sex offender now also fall within the ambit of Project Safe Childhood.
The USAO works with numerous stakeholders to implement the Project Safe Childhood mission, including: the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys; the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces; federal law enforcement partners, including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); advocacy organizations such as the National Institute of Justice; and state, local, tribal and military law enforcement officials.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the USAO. Through enforcement and education, we work with our law enforcement partners to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s seniors. The public is encouraged to report victimization and suspected fraud schemes by calling the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD 11 (1-833- 372-8311).
The South Florida USAO partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement as part of the Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, and other priority transnational criminal organizations that threaten the citizens of the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence driven, multi-agency approach to combat transnational organized crime. The OCDETF program facilitates complex, joint operations by focusing its partner agencies on priority targets, by managing and coordinating multi-agency efforts, and by leveraging intelligence across multiple investigative platforms.
Soon after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the South Florida USAO partnered with other federal government agencies to establish the Southern District of Florida Covid-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. Its mission is to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The South Florida USAO leads the country in pandemic-related fraud prosecutions.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established a national COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Victim Services Program
The Victim Services Program is focused on assisting victims through the court system by providing timely information, logistical assistance (for victim-witnesses) and referrals to providers of medical care, counseling services, psychological treatment, financial and other victim-centered resources and services. The rights of victims are codified at Title 18, United States Code, Section 3771:
Rights of Crime Victims:
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
The Office is committed to protecting the rights of crime victims. If you are a victim of a crime being prosecuted by our Office, our Victim and Witness Unit can:
- Give referrals to other agencies (public and private) that provide important social services, including counseling, treatment, and other support.
- A separate waiting area away from defendant and defense witnesses.
- Courtroom support.
- Information and assistance with travel and lodging for mandatory court appearances.
- Return of property held as evidence.
- Employer or creditor intercession/notification.
- Payment of forensic rape exams, testing and services for crime victims in sexual assault cases.
The Victim Witness Information Form is used throughout this state to assist U.S. Attorneys' Offices and other federal agencies with their statutory obligations to advise the courts of the appropriate restitution to be awarded to victims.
For current information regarding a particular case, contact the Victim-Witness Coordinator. The toll-free telephone number and address are:
Contact: (888) 513-0867
United States Attorney's Office
99 NE 4th Street
Miami, FL 33132
In general, the Government attempts to identify each victim in a given case, and to provide those victims with the information relevant to the case through the Department of Justice’s Victim Notification System (VNS). This free, computer-based and toll-free system provides two important services to victims: information and notification. In cases where, due to the number of victims involved, or for other reasons, such notification is impracticable, the Government may use other methods to communicate with victims, including posting relevant information online.
Current Case Information:
Citizen Complaint Hotline, (305) 961-9173
Citizen Complaint Email Address: USAFLS-Citizencompla@usdoj.gov
The USAO for the Southern District also maintains and advances programs that focus on areas such as Computer Crimes, Election Crimes, Human Trafficking, Immigration, and Violent Crime in Indian Country, among others.