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

Memphis, TN (STL.News) – Two years ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), 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 two years, 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.  According to FBI’s Uniform Crime Report released this week, the violent crime rate decreased for the second consecutive year, down 3.9 percent from the 2017 numbers.

“The revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a major success,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “It packs a powerful punch by combining advanced data with local leadership, further reducing violence in communities across the country and improving overall public safety. U.S. Attorneys continue to focus their enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals and work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal police.  The Justice Department’s relationships across the board have never been stronger.”

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 law enforcement partners.  Our job is to get better at reducing violent crime by smart, aggressive enforcement and effective prosecution that removes the worst of the worst from our communities.  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.  Under the DOJ flagship violence reduction initiative of PSN, we will continue to focus on the real drivers of violent crime: guns, gangs and drugs.”

PSN Task Force

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.

As we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:

• On October 1, 2018, Antonio White, 38, was a convicted felon sentenced to 120 months in federal prison after a child was found sitting on loaded firearm and 7.4 grams of cocaine.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/convicted-felon-sentenced-120-months-federal-prison-after-child-found-sitting-loaded

• On November 29, 2018, the PSN Task Force arrested and indicted 19 Individuals for various Federal Drug and Firearms Offenses, including seven documented gang members, in “Operation Gun Done.”  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/psn-task-force-indicts-and-arrests-19-individuals-various-federal-drug-and-firearms

• On February 28, 2019, Marlon Pruitt a/k/a “Big Putt,” was sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal to 188 months in federal prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and drugs.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/armed-career-criminal-sentenced-188-months-prison-illegally-possessing-firearms-and

• On, June 6, 2019, Everette Alexander, 48, was sentenced to federal prison for making false statements on an ATF Federal Background Check Form while attempting to purchase a firearm, and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/judge-sentences-convicted-felon-making-false-statements-federal-background-check-form

• On July 19, 2019, Nathaniel Hall, 54, was sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal to 188 months in federal prison for possession of firearm by a convicted felon, after he used a gun to chase and shoot a victim in the leg.  Hall has previously been convicted on three separate occasions for burglary, and also had a prior conviction for robbery with a deadly weapon.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/armed-career-criminal-sentenced-188-months-federal-prison

• On August 12, 2019, James Nelson, 48, an Armed Career Criminal, was sentenced to 405 months in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.  Nelson was previously convicted for several felony charges involving drugs, guns, and violent crimes, including a 1996 conviction for voluntary manslaughter, where he shot and killed his sister.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/armed-career-criminal-sentenced-405-months-federal-prison

• On September 5, 2019, Edward Drummer, 36, was sentenced to 92 months in federal prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, which he used to hold a female victim and her 12-year old son at gunpoint during a domestic violence incident. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/pr/convicted-felon-sentenced-92-months-illegally-possessing-firearm-during-domestic

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 to their 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.

Members of the United States Department of Justice, Federal Reentry Council, meet monthly to discuss and develop solutions to assist reentrants, such as collaborating with the Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate driver’s licenses.

On June 13, 2019, the United States Department of Justice, Federal Reentry Council held its first annual Recognition Awards Program.  Certificates were presented to business and community leaders who participated in the reentry court program throughout the year.  During the ceremony, the Director of the Tennessee Driver Services Division was presented with a Certificate of Recognition for his invaluable dedication and contribution affecting re-entrants.

On October 1, 2019, leaders of the Shelby County Child Protection Investigation Team (CPIT) gathered to sign an updated protocol formalizing our collaboration.  This partnership helps victimized children get help faster and renews our commitment to Shelby County’s kids.

Improvements to Community Safety

• For the second consecutive year, the estimated number of violent crimes in the nation decreased when compared with the previous year’s statistics, according to FBI figures released today.  In 2018, the number of violent crimes was down 3.3 percent from the 2017 number.

• The 2018 statistics also show the estimated rate of violent crime was 368.9 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants.  The violent crime rate fell 3.9 percent when compared with the 2017 rate.

• Here in Memphis, FBI data shows that the number of rapes reported to police fell by 17 percent, and the number of robberies decreased by 12 percent in 2018.  And although aggravated assaults increased by 1 percent and homicides were up 3 percent in 2018 as compared to 2017, the overall number of violent crimes reported to police fell 3 percent in the City of Memphis during that period.

• More recent year-to-date numbers at the end of September, 2019, show a decreased rate of 7.8 percent in overall violent crime in all major categories in Memphis, including a 23.8 percent decrease in business robberies and a 13.8 percent decrease in carjackings.

• From 2017 to 2018, federal firearms and violent crime prosecutions increased by 39 percent in the Western District of Tennessee, including an increase of 120 percent in the number of federal prosecutions of domestic violence offenders in possession of firearms.  As a result of these dramatic increases in federal gun prosecutions, the percentage of defendants found guilty for such offenses has increased by 43.7 percent over the last year.

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