Attorney General Sessions And U.S. Attorney Kennedy Announce Progress In Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
PHONE: (716) 843-5817
FAX #: (716) 551-3051
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- 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, the United States Attorneys Office and our federal partners have teamed up 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.”
“Here in Western New York, our PSN initiative has focused on the most violent areas within our largest population centers—the Cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara Falls,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “In each instance, we have sought to tailor the programs to the needs of the communities. While the PSN Programs in Rochester and Niagara Falls have existed for some time—in the form of Project Exile in Rochester, which this year celebrates its 20th Anniversary and is the longest running program of its kind in the country, and in the form of a dispute resolution project in Niagara Falls—the PSN program in Buffalo is new this year.”
Working collaboratively with our partners at the federal, state and local levels, we have identified the “C” and “E” Police Districts in the City of Buffalo as neighborhoods with higher incidents of violent crime. As a result, those Police Districts have been established as Project Safe Neighborhood areas of focus. Working closely with Erie County District Attorney John Flynn and Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, we have developed a process to identify potential federal cases involving firearms, including illegal possession and shootings. In addition, our Assistant United States Attorneys have conducted training of BPD Officers in those Districts regarding the enforcement and prosecution of federal gun crimes.
In the near future, we hope, working with the Buffalo Police Department, and all our partners, to start up a joint federal, state, and local non-fatal shooting task force to focus on violent gun crime in those target areas. Our goal is to identify defendants in non-fatal shooting crimes and remove them from the streets in order to prevent shooting fatalities in the future. By providing such assistance it is anticipated that the solve rates in all shootings, both fatal and non-fatal with be increased.
As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:
• On September 7, 2018, Thamud Eldridge, 44, a/k/a Damu, of Buffalo, NY, who was convicted following a seven-week jury trial of multiple RICO, drug, and gun charges, was sentenced to serve 50 years in prison. The defendant was a member of a gang that specialized in targeting and then robbing drug dealers in and around the City of Buffalo, intending to steal their illegal drugs, money, and jewelry. Read more at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/buffalo-man-sentenced-50-years-federal-prison-following-rico-conviction.
• On August 30, 2018, 12 members/associates of the CBL/BFL gang were indicted and charged with crimes which included: murder and assault in aid of racketeering, racketeering and narcotics conspiracy, and gun possession. Read more at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/12-membersassociates-cblbfl-gang-indicted-charged-murder-and-assault-aid-racketeering.
• On December 20, 2017, Roderick Arrington, a/k/a Ra-Ra, 37, of Buffalo, NY, who was convicted following a jury trial of racketeering conspiracy, murder-in-aid-of-racketeering, and related charges, was sentenced consecutive sentences of life in prison. The defendant, a Schuele Boys Gang member, was also sentenced to 30 years in prison on two other firearm charges. Read more at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/schuele-shooter-sentenced-life-prison.
• On August 29, 2017, Christian O. Dalmau, 31, of Bronx, NY, who was convicted of possession of a firearm by an unlawful user of a controlled substance, was sentenced to 120 months in prison. Subsequently, on May 16, 2018, Dalmau was indicted by the Eastern District of New York on multiple charges including use of firearms in connection with a drug trafficking crime, murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking offense, and causing death through use of a firearm. Read more at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/bronx-man-sentenced-gun-charge.
• On September 19, 2018, U.S. Attorney Kennedy, DA Flynn, BPD Commissioner Lockwood and local elected officials met with the Concerned Clergy Coalition of Western New York to discuss recent violence in the city and what local clergy members can do to assist. Clergy members pledged to deliver to their congregations the message of how important it is, if they are truly interested in breaking the cycle of violence in their community, to stand up, come-forward, cooperate with law enforcement, and report criminal conduct. Moreover, the clergy agreed to raise funding for witness protection. Attendees also agreed to meet on a regular basis to continue the dialogue.
• On August 8, 2018, at the request of City of Buffalo officials, U.S. Attorney Kennedy gathered agency heads from a variety of federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, DEA, ATF, and HSI, to meet with Buffalo Police Commissioner Lockwood and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to discuss how federal law enforcement can help to reduce the violence that occurred in the City of Buffalo over the summer. The leaders strategized efforts to address the violence and encourage more cooperation from the public in solving the most violent of crimes.
• On March 15, 2018, U.S. Attorney Kennedy led the annual notification session in partnership with the Buffalo Police Department. Such sessions, in an effort to reduce recidivism, bring together members of federal and local law enforcement agencies, parole and probation, and clergy and community leaders, to share a message of encouragement and hope with a group defendants recently placed on probation or parole.
• U.S. Attorney Kennedy regularly participates in the Justice Report, a 30-minute program on Buffalo Public Access Television that highlights the workings of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The goal is to create awareness and educate the public about the work done by the USAO and the ways in which community members can assist in those efforts.
Improvements to Community Safety
Both nationally and locally, these efforts are producing results.
Nationally, 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.
Locally, the most recent statistics from the Erie Crime Analysis Center show that across the City of Buffalo violent crimes such as rape, robbery, and assault, were down 10.3% last year compared to the average of the previous five years. Moreover, within the designated PSN area (C and E Districts), firearm crimes were down 18.6% last year compared to the average of the previous five years, while illegal gun arrests in that same area were up 12.6% last year compared to previous year.
“If you think about gun violence, every gun crime really has 2 basic components: (1) an available gun; and (2) someone with the will to use it to shoot someone else,” added U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “With the latest estimates putting the number of guns in the United States at anywhere from 270 million to 310 million—a gun for nearly every man, woman, and child in our country—the simple truth is that regardless of how you may feel about gun control and the 2nd Amendment, guns are, and will remain, ubiquitous in American society. With a ready supply of available guns, then the only realistic way to reduce gun violence is to reduce the number of people who are doing violence with guns. That is, if we want to get rid of gun violence, we’ve got to get rid of the people who are willing to do violence with guns. One way to get rid of them is to arrest them and incarcerate them. That is our traditional role as prosecutors and law enforcers; we hold people accountable for their actions. The other way to get rid of people who are willing to do violence with guns is to change them. While accountability may be one way to change people, by sending the message of deterrence that certain consequences (incarceration) will flow from the commission of a certain action (using a gun for violence), it is not the only way. The community, and everyone in it, must also do our part to try to change the hearts and minds of those who might be inclined to use guns for criminal purposes—to show them a better way. In our District, we have designed our PSN initiative to employ both of these methods to ‘get rid of’ those who are willing to do violence with guns.”
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