U.S. Attorney Murray Announces Progress In Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - 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.
Throughout the past year, we have 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.
“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.”
“In this district, local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement have a long history of working together to protect our communities and reduce violent crime by identifying serial violent offenders, focusing on crime hot spots, and dismantling criminal enterprises,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “In addition to enforcement actions, as part of our strategy under the revitalized PSN program, we have expanded our existing partnerships and created new ones with important community stakeholders on our prevention, education and outreach efforts. Using the additional resources we have received from the Justice Department, will further our mission to increase safety and reduce violent crime in neighborhoods across Western North Carolina,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.
Over the past year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has worked with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to identify and prosecute the most violent individuals who use firearms to commit violent crimes:
- On September 25, 2018, three Gaston County drug traffickers were sentenced to prison terms ranging from nine to 17.5 years. The three men were responsible for trafficking multiple kilograms of crack cocaine. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized illegally possessed firearms, including one AK-47 assault rifle, one shotgun, four handguns, and ammunition.
- On September 10, 2018, Johnny Obrian Leach, 31, of Gastonia, N.C. was sentenced to 180 months for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Due to his prior offenses, that included Assault with Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury, Robbery with Dangerous Weapon, and First Degree Kidnapping, Leach received an enhanced sentence as an Armed Career Criminal.
- On September 4, 2018, two high-ranking leaders of the Nine Trey Gangsters set of the Bloods street gang, including the “Godfather” of the set, who also served as “Chairman” of the UBN, and a second leader who held the rank of “Worldwide High” were each sentenced to 20 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy.
- On August 23, 2018, 11 individuals were arrested on drug and gun charges as part of a PSN initiative in Mecklenburg County.
- On February 13, 2018, 44 individuals were arrested on federal and state drug and gun charges. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement recovered more than 27 firearms and illegal substances, including heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (ecstasy) pills.
In addition to our law enforcement efforts to identify and prosecute violent offenders, as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s PSN strategy, we have partnered with area schools and community-based organizations on initiatives focusing on prevention and education.
In August 2018, we partnered with the Asheville Police Department and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office to conduct the Law Enforcement Guiding Adolescent Lives (L.E.G.A.L.) training program in Asheville. Volunteer officers and deputies, and 18 young men selected from the Asheville-based youth development program My Daddy Taught Me That, participated in this youth-oriented community outreach initiative, designed to foster positive interactions between young people and members of the law enforcement community.
In partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Schools, Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools, we continue to co-sponsor the Do the Write Thing writing challenge, which gives middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of violence on their lives, by communicating what they have seen to be the causes of youth violence. By encouraging students to make personal commitments to do something about the problem, the program ultimately seeks to empower them to reduce violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with school districts to organize the Violence Prevention Youth Summits. These summits are designed to encourage middle school and high school students to discuss the culture and climate within their schools, to develop conflict resolution skills, to discuss strategies for dealing with social pressures, and to brainstorm on solutions for creating a positive and inclusive school environment for students. In addition to the summits, the Stand Up, Speak Out campaign, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office co-sponsors, encourages students to take the anti-bullying pledge and to make a positive change within their schools.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also working with faith-based organizations in the Asheville area to develop strategies for improving community relations and, specifically, relationships between law enforcement and minority groups.
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.
- In Charlotte, homicides are down 37% compared to the same time last year, and violent crimes involving firearms are down 7%.
In support of the Department’s PSN programs throughout the country, the Attorney General also announced almost $28 million in grant funding to combat violent crime through PSN and another $3 million for training and technical assistance to develop and implement violent crime reduction strategies and enhance services and resources for victims of violent crime. Since the announcement of the reinvigoration of the PSN program in October 2017, the Justice Department has also increased the number of federal prosecutors focused on violent crime. North Carolina has received nearly $1 million in PSN grants, $311,781 of which will be allocated to the Western District. The U.S. Attorney’s Office was also allocated two Assistant U.S. Attorneys to focus on violent crime prosecutions.
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.