U.S. Attorney John F. Bash Announces 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 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.
“Attorney General Sessions has demonstrated tough and inspiring leadership in prioritizing the fight against violent crime,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Bash. “Our office and our federal, state, and local partners have focused considerable resources on areas in Central and West Texas that have struggled with violent crime in the past. In my view, this not just a law-and-order issue. It is also an issue of economic and social justice. When children in some communities grow up in constant fear of a sudden outbreak of random violence—when the simple act of walking to school is fraught with risk—their chance for success and happiness in life is inevitably diminished. We won’t ensure that every child in this Nation can succeed until we rid every community of gangs and gun violence.”
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:
- San Antonio (Operation Triple Beam) – From September to December 2017 the U.S. Marshal’s Lone Star Fugitive Task Force partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD), the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The operation targeted gangs and violent fugitives resulting in approximately 200 arrests, the seizure of nearly 70 firearms, and the confiscation of approximately $170,000 worth of drugs.
- San Antonio – In 2017, gang violence came to a head in San Antonio when a four-year-old boy was the victim of a drive-by shooting. The child was shot in the head with a .223 round as he played video games in his home. The ensuing investigation, as well as others by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), ATF, USMS, SAPD, BCSO, and DPS, resulted in federal firearm and drug trafficking charges filed against dozens of individuals including members and associates of the local factions of the Bloods and Crips.
- San Antonio – ATF has worked with SAPD and DPS on the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) Task Force. NIBIN’s ballistic technology links shell casings from one crime scene to firearms and casings found at crime scenes throughout the United States. In the area of gun violence, this effort has yielded 317 leads and 33 arrests and has resulted in 75 shootings being solved.
- Temple/Killeen – Federal authorities are working with local authorities to get violent criminals off the street. Since October 2017, authorities have filed federal firearms/drug charges against more than 80 convicted felons in the Temple/Killeen areas. These filings reflect a 319% increase in federal charges filed over the previous fiscal year for offenses in the same areas.
- Odessa – For 2015 and 2016, Texas Monthly declared Odessa the “Most Dangerous City” in Texas based on statistical information for violent crimes. The Odessa PSN Task Force (Odessa Police Department, Ector County Sheriff’s Office, DPS, FBI, USMS, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and ATF) recognized and focused their investigative efforts on the growing number of firearm thefts and the resulting sale of those firearms to known criminal actors, narcotics distributors and gang members. As a result, federal prosecutions in 2017 for firearms violations increased almost 30% in the Midland/Odessa Division. Individuals charged federally had extensive criminal histories (5-20 previous events).
- The U.S. Attorney’s Office is currently working with two elementary schools in the San Antonio Target Enforcement Area to establish a volunteer program made up of the office’s employees. The children in this area live in neighborhoods marked by high levels of crime and households that often mistrust law enforcement officials. The school officials believe that law enforcement officers and the U.S. Attorney’s Office could provide these students with positive role models who can help guide them to a path for productive lives and help foster trusting relationships with law enforcement agencies.
Improvements to Community Safety Nationwide
- 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.
“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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”
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.