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Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods
What is Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN)?
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.
Southern District of West Virginia
PSN Target Area: Huntington, West Virginia
US Attorney: Michael B. Stuart
Partnership: The PSN partnership in the Southern District of West Virginia includes the United States Attorney’s Office, federal law enforcement agencies, the Huntington Police Department (HPD), the West Virginia State Police, the Huntington Safe Streets Task Force and other task forces, the Cabell County Prosecutor’s Office, U.S. Probation, the Cabell County Probation Office, the West Virginia Department of Corrections, and Marshall University. The United States Attorney’s Office has held frequent coordination and strategy meetings with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and drug and violent crime task force personnel. It has also coordinated with other partners, including the Mayor’s office, local prosecutors, courts, and probation and correctional agencies, in an effort to develop a PSN strategy for Huntington, West Virginia.
Targeted Enforcement: PSN partnership’s enforcement efforts are currently focused in the City of Huntington, where there has been a precipitous increase in gun and violent crime. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 75% increase in homicides, the majority of which were committed with a firearm; a 42% increase in violent crime; and an approximately 50% increase in non-fatal shootings. Huntington was selected as a target enforcement area based on analysis of federal and local crime data, community-based data, federal and local prosecution information, and intelligence from federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. On March 15, 2018, United States Attorney Mike Stuart announced the creation of Project Huntington, which doubled the number of federal prosecutors in the Huntington office to prosecute more violent criminals, drug traffickers, and prohibited persons in possession of a firearms. This effort is already bearing fruit and helping to improve public safety in Huntington. As part of Project Huntington, United States Attorney Stuart coordinated a major takedown on April 17, 2018 that involved nearly 100 federal and state targets and resulted in the dismantling of a multi-state heroin and fentanyl network known as “Operation Saigon Sunset.”
PSN enforcement efforts are focused on the drivers of violent crime in Huntington, who are identified via intelligence from law enforcement, corrections, and community partners, as well as social network analysis and criminal history information. To improve the available intelligence to support targeted enforcement efforts, HPD is obtaining ShotSpotter technology to assist in locating, analyzing, and solving gun crime. ATF anticipates placing a NIBIN machine in Charleston, West Virginia so that HPD and other law enforcement partners can submit ballistics evidence for analysis and linkage to crimes previously committed. Drawing upon all of this intelligence and data and through regular intelligence-sharing meetings, the PSN partnership is developing a “top 10” list of violent offenders in the area on whom to focus enforcement efforts. Drawing on comprehensive crime gun tracing, criminal incident reviews, field interrogations, the United States Attorney’s Office and its partners are building cases against the most violent offenders. Federal and local prosecutors are actively engaged in a collaborative effort to screen drug and gun cases to determine the best venue for each case. These efforts are having a significant impact. Comparing January to March 2017 with the same period in 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office had a 320% increase in firearms cases and a 277% increase in firearms defendants.
Another key component of the PSN strategy is coordination across federal judicial districts. The United States Attorneys for the Southern District of West Virginia, the Eastern District of Kentucky, and the Southern District of Ohio have joined together to develop the Tri-State Area Violent Crime and Drug Trafficking Working Group, which is designed to enhance the efforts to combat violent crime and drug trafficking across district lines. As part of the collaborative partnership, members of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will meet regularly to share intelligence and review cases about the most dangerous offenders in the Tri-State area.
Prevention and Community Engagement: In recognition of the need for a comprehensive approach to violence reduction, the PSN partnership is developing a more aggressive community engagement strategy to complement to targeted enforcement efforts. One component of this strategy will focus on offenders reentering the community. Officers with the Huntington Police Department have begun accompanying probation and parole officers on home visits at certain offenders’ residences to develop a relationship and educate the offender on the penalties for gun possession. Other community partners include the City of Huntington, Cabell County Schools, Cabell Coalition on Substance Abuse Prevention, Recovery Point, Region 5 Prevention Coalition, and Marshall University. Working through prevention coalitions and School Resource Officers, a Students Pledge Against Gun Violence campaign will be implemented. The plan also includes town hall meetings, school presentations, and a media campaign to inform the community of the PSN initiative and send a deterrence message to potential offenders.