The first week of October marked the one-year anniversary of the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a nationwide initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce gun violence in neighborhoods across the country. PSN is part of the Department of Justice’s broader strategy to reduce gun and violent crime by targeting areas in need and prosecuting those individuals who commit violent crime within them.
“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.”
According to United States Attorney Scott C. Blader, 57 defendants were charged with federal crimes under this initiative between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 within the Western District of Wisconsin. These PSN defendants were charged with the following crimes:
• 42 counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition;
• 21 counts of robbing a business, including 12 bank robberies;
• 22 counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense;
• one count of possessing a firearm following a domestic violence conviction;
• one count of selling firearms without a license; and
• 34 drug-related offenses.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a research-based approach to prosecution that focuses on a specific geographical area and prioritizes the most violent offenders for prosecution based on knowledge known to law enforcement. Within the Western District of Wisconsin, Dane County and surrounding areas are the focal point for PSN. Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office joins with Dane County law enforcement and prosecutors, and with federal agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Drug Enforcement Administration, to share information, develop investigations, and hold offenders accountable.
U.S. Attorney Blader said, “PSN has been an invaluable tool in addressing violent crime within the Dane County area. Dane County and surrounding areas have seen an increase in violent and gun-related crime, including bank robbery offenses. By working closely with our state and local partners, we have been successful in holding many of these offenders accountable.”
Madison Police Chief Michael Koval stated, “Violent criminal acts threaten community safety and contribute to negative perceptions about the quality of life that we enjoy in the City of Madison. Thankfully, we have a willing and robust collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as well as a coordinated response with federal law enforcement agencies. An aggressive, no nonsense approach has led to significant arrests and effective prosecutions which take criminal elements out of the fabric of our daily lives. I am grateful for the partnerships we have forged and the bottom line results that are being achieved by PSN.”
Jessie Summers, Resident Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, stated, “ATF is proud to be a part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office and our state and local partners. ATF is dedicated to taking violent criminals off the streets and working with state, local and federal partners under Project Safe Neighborhoods allows us to do just that.”
The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline, after historic increases in 2015 and 2016. 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 for 2018 gives reason for optimism that PSN 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.