In May of 2001, President George W. Bush announced Project Safe Neighborhoods ("PSN"), a comprehensive, strategic approach to reducing gun violence and promoting safe communities in this country. PSN combats gun violence by bringing together local, state, and federal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to implement a multi-faceted strategy to deter and punish gun violence. PSN has created unprecedented coordination among law enforcement officials, with an emphasis on prevention, tactical intelligence gathering, more aggressive prosecutions, and enhanced accountability through performance measures. The benefits from PSN are already apparent in Vermont communities. From 1999 to 2005, federal firearms prosecutions in Vermont increased 300%.
Project Safe Vermont, which is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, is a statewide initiative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It includes partnerships among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; strategic planning incorporating such technologies as crime mapping, gun tracing and ballistic analysis; training that brings together federal, state and local officials to build effective teams; outreach to communities; and accountability for impact on community safety.
The Project Safe Vermont Task Force decided to initially focus their efforts to reduce gun violence related to domestic violence offenders. The intent was to make it clear that Vermont would no longer accept that firearms were commonly in the possession of prohibited persons, including domestic violence offenders. In Phase Two of Project Safe Vermont, the Task Force continued with this message and developed a youth focused message. After soliciting the advice of teen behavioral experts, Project Safe Vermont embarked on an ambitious educational campaign targeted to all Vermont teens. This campaign was designed to appeal to teens and located in places where they gather for educational or social purposes in an effort to deliver the Project Safe Vermont message of laws and penalties for possession of firearms by prohibited persons under federal law. With the support of Vermont high school principals, educational materials, including posters and handouts were placed in 63 Vermont high schools.
Project Safe Vermont continues to reach out to all Vermonters and to expand its focus to include coordinated, innovative and strategic responses to reduce violent gun crime. Recently, the Project Safe Vermont Task Force announced the creation of a joint response team of investigators and prosecutors to combat a wave of armed robberies in Vermont. As we go forward, Project Safe Vermont will continue to ensure that federal firearms laws are aggressively pursued and to extend the outreach of the Project Safe Vermont message to victims of gun crime and potential victims of gun crime.
The U.S. Attorney for Vermont and her staff believe:
- Increased law enforcement and prosecution, along with education, will reduce the number of firearms in the hands of those prohibited from having them.
- Violent criminals and drug traffickers who use and carry firearms pose a clear danger to law abiding Vermonters and the communities we live in. The investigation and prosecution of these offenders will be aggressively pursued through the cooperative efforts of federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors.
- In Vermont, many individuals with a history of domestic violence illegally possess weapons. In reducing offenders’ access to firearms, we believe that our efforts to reduce gun crime can contribute to reducing domestic violence and increasing victims' safety.
- In Vermont, we have a tradition of working together to achieve common goals. The continued cooperation of federal, state and local law enforcement in the vigorous investigation and prosecution of federal firearms laws will contribute to the success of this initiative.
- By increasing public awareness of federal penalties for illegal gun use and possession, our goal is to reduce violent crime, and the use of guns in the domestic violence context.
While Vermont is fortunate not to have the level of gun crimes seen in other states, it has experienced far too many violent offenses involving firearms and other weapons, including domestic violence offenses. However, we must remain vigilant and there is much work to be done. With the support of all Vermonters, we can work together to reduce violent gun crime in our state and the incidence of domestic violence.
For more information on Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit: ProjectSafeNeighborhoods.gov