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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Dunavant Announces Progress in Making our Communities Safer through Project Safe Neighborhoods

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee

Memphis, TN – 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 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.

Under the leadership and direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice has stepped up prosecutions of weapons offenses, bringing 8,403 such cases in the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018, a 22.5 percent increase from the previous year.

Since in office, U.S. Attorney Mike Dunavant has made prosecution of gun crimes in the federal system a top priority. Under its violence reduction strategy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee has dramatically increased the number of firearms prosecutions filed, and seeks significant sentences on firearms offenses because guns are a common denominator in many violent crimes, including murder, robbery, drug trafficking and aggravated assault.

"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 D. Michael Dunavant said, "Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a proven violent crime reduction strategy that works, and is now reinvigorated with additional resources and commitment from our partners at the ATF, Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, and Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. Since October 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has increased the number of federal firearms cases filed by over 47 percent, and the number of defendants charged with firearms offenses has increased over 61 percent. These efforts provide targeted prosecution of the worst-of-the-worst offenders to enhance public safety in Memphis and West Tennessee by removing guns from the hands of dangerous people and removing violent offenders from our communities."

Enforcement Actions

Currently, the 13-member PSN Task Force, which is the investigative component of the local PSN initiative, is comprised of personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Memphis Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. The success of this collaborative law enforcement effort is recognized nationally, with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from Alabama, Mississippi, the District of Columbia and Tennessee frequently visiting the task force to adopt its practices.

The Task Force not only investigates firearm possession by prohibited persons; it also investigates individuals buying and selling firearms to/from convicted felons. The Task Force engages in proactive and reactive investigations of convicted felons suspected of possessing firearms, as well as firearm suppliers that are conducting illegal transactions.

Here are some highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:

  • Ladarius Porter, 27 of Memphis, was sentenced in July 2018, to 15 years imprisonment for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Tommy Earl Champion Jr, a/k/a/ "Duct Tape"29 of Jackson, Tennessee, was sentenced in September 2018, to 30 years’ incarceration for participating in racketeering conspiracy and for using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
  • Robert Hutchinson, Jr., 45 was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Community Partnerships

Reentry education and assistance is an important part of the PSN initiative and vital to ensuring communities are safer when those incarcerated return home. Since 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of U.S. Probation continues to participate in monthly Reentry Court sessions. In addition, staff also meets monthly to discuss issues with clients at a halfway house prior who will be transitioning back into the Western District of Tennessee. Through these reentry services, we further our commitment to providing individuals with the necessary tools to make a permanent lifestyle change that will benefit themselves and the community.

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 the first six months of 2018, Memphis and unincorporated parts of Shelby County reported 2,405 gun crimes, which represents a 15.3 percent decrease from the same period in 2017, when 2,840 such crimes were reported.

The reduction in reported crimes with guns is consistent with the reduction in reported violent crimes. During the first eight months of this year, reported violent crimes involving firearms were down 17.6 percent in the City of Memphis and countywide, compared to last year. The reduction occurred in all major categories of violent crimes committed with firearms – murders (down 6.4%), business robberies (down 35.1%) and aggravated assaults (down 20.8%).

"These sustained decreases in reported gun crimes and all major violent gun crime categories are encouraging, and shows that our return to proven enforcement policies under PSN is working. Putting the right people in prison incapacitates the most violent offenders, upholds the rule of law, deters criminal conduct with a strong message of significant consequences, and makes us all safer," said U.S. Attorney Dunavant.

Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods

Updated October 5, 2018