U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan Highlights 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 Jeff 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 works together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in Vermont and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations and community stakeholders to reduce violent crime and make our state safer for everyone.
“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.”
U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan stated: “There is no place for violence in Vermont in any context, whether it be in the home, in relation to the drug trade, or in connection with property crime. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to prioritizing anti-violence prosecutions. We will work tirelessly to root out violence across the state, and always in close collaboration with community organizations, federal, state, local, and county law enforcement, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, and state prosecutors. As we continue to work in unity, as a single Vermont law enforcement team, we will send a message of zero tolerance to those who commit senseless violence and flout firearms laws, and we will create safer and more peaceful communities for Vermonters.”
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some highlights of the U.S. Attorney’s Office PSN program over the past year:
- In January 2018, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller was appointed the Violent Crime Coordinator to oversee PSN prosecutions and initiatives in Vermont and to conduct intake of U.S. Attorney’s Office violent crime cases.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office has strengthened relationships, communication, and partnerships at all levels of law enforcement in Vermont, and in every corner of the state, in order to maximize our cooperation in violent crime cases. In particular, the U.S. Attorney meets regularly, in person, with each State’s Attorney to ensure close collaboration in all matters, including violence and gun crime.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office established a PSN Task Force, comprised of federal, state, and local agencies and community partners. The mission of the Task Force is to collaborate in violent crime cases and regularly communicate intelligence concerning top violent crime offenders, discuss trends in violent crime, and share best practices and violence prevention strategies. Members of the Task Force come from northern and southern Vermont.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have conducted numerous trainings for state, county and local law enforcement throughout the state. These sessions cover the scope and interplay of state and federal gun laws, federal case intake procedures, and violent crime investigative resources available to law enforcement at all levels.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office requested and received three new, full-time Assistant U.S. Attorneys, increasing its AUSA ranks by more than 15 percent. These new resources will allow the U.S. Attorney’s Office to increase its violent crime caseload and provide greater support to our state and local partners.
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to deploy resources to support our partners, to bring charges in cases of violence, and to bring justice to violent crime offenders. Case highlights from the past year include:
- On 8/21/2018, Richard Monroe was sentenced to 25 years in prison following his conviction for shooting and killing Kevin DeOliveira in Burlington in connection with a cocaine dispute. Read more www.justice.gov/usao-vt/pr/richard-monroe-sentenced-twenty-five-years-prison-connection-murder-kevin-deoliveira
- On 6/1/2018, Howard Hoisington was sentenced to 24 years in prison following his conviction for setting two individuals on fire in Barre (and killing one) in connection with the drug trade. Read more www.justice.gov/usao-vt/pr/howard-hoisington-sentenced-24-years-prison-fatal-arson-case
- On 8/16/2018, Michael Bickford was sentenced to 8 years in prison following his conviction for conduct in Springfield involving bank robbery at gunpoint, attempted kidnapping, carjacking, and a standoff with police. Read More www.justice.gov/usao-vt/pr/perkinsville-man-sentenced-armed-pharmacy-and-bank-robbery-case
- Over the past year, an operation in Barre, supported with Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) funds, led to state and federal charges against 58 defendants, and to the seizure of 71 firearms, 2,187 rounds of ammunition, 888 bags of heroin, and 161 grams of crack cocaine. This operation exemplifies the positive impacts and support that federal OCDETF funds can provide to local law enforcement and communities.
- On 9/13/2018, five St. Albans individuals were indicted for straw purchasing a total of approximately 30 firearms and trading them to drug dealers in Massachusetts. Read more www.justice.gov/usao-vt/pr/five-arrested-and-charged-straw-purchasers-30-firearms
Circle, a nonprofit serving victims and survivors of domestic violence, has joined the PSN effort and was recently approved as a fiscal agent for federal PSN grant funding awarded to Vermont. Circle will join with law enforcement in helping to educate Vermonters about violent crime and domestic violence and devising and implementing violence prevention strategies throughout the state.
Improvements to Community Safety
- The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, following historic increases in violent crime, the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline. Specifically, 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.
- Preliminary information for 2018 gives reason for optimism that our PSN efforts are producing positive results. Public data from 60 major American cities shows that violent crime decreased by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018, compared to the same period a year ago.
- Vermont saw a 20 percent decrease in homicides from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, year to date, homicides in Vermont are down nearly 50 percent from 2016. In 2018, year to date, homicides arising from domestic violence are down more than 30 percent. Moreover, robberies in Vermont decreased nearly 25 percent from 2016 to 2017. In 2018, year to date, robberies are down more than 50 percent from 2016.
These data reveal what the Vermont law enforcement community knows: by working together, side-by-side, we reduce violence and gun crime and keep our communities safe. There is much work ahead. We will continue to forge strong partnerships with law enforcement agencies and community stakeholders to promote justice and peace for Vermonters.
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.