Local News

Project Safe Neighborhoods targets 'gun-toting criminals'

Posted November 23, 2009

— Project Safe Neighborhoods is cracking down on gun crime, gangs and repeat offenders in communities across eastern North Carolina, federal prosecutors and local law police officers touted at a press conference Monday.

Law enforcement targets gun crime Law enforcement targets gun crime

The operation is a joint effort by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that started in the 1990s.

"We're here as a team to assist the communities and community organizations to take back these communities from gang members and drug dealers and gun-toting criminals," said George Holding, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

In the 1990s, the Eastern District prosecuted fewer than 100 gun crimes a year. Since the creation of the Safe Neighborhoods and Anti-Gang task force, that average has jumped to 300. Last year, the district ranked fourth in the U.S. for firearms prosecutions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Jackson described the kind of criminals Project Safe Neighborhood intends to put behind bars.

"(We're after) the worst of the worst – the kind of people out there shooting it up in convenience stores, and they fire guns, those kinds of people. (We're after) the people out there robbing people for no reason and committing violent crimes where guns are fired," Jackson said.

"We are taking those cases and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law."

(See cases prosecuted by Project Safe Neighborhoods.)

Convictions for gun crimes in federal court results in significantly stiffer sentences than state courts could impose.

"The federal sentences are an absolute hammer, and that's the hammer we use to get these folks to go straight," Holding said.

For example, in August, a federal judge sentenced Kendricus Marquell Williams, 21, of Raleigh, to 226 years in prison after a jury convicted him of a robbery spree in which a store clerk was shot in Wake Forest.

"To be slinging rocks (of crack cocaine) and having guns in your pocket 24-7 will get you more than 24 years," Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said. "We've got to send that message to change their lives and to help so many young people."

Those stiff sentences are only part of the strategy of Project Safe Neighborhoods, though, officials said.

Team leaders utilize neighborhood outreach programs to reach offenders before they commit serious crimes. The program employs community housing, employment and substance abuse resources.

Community activist Van Alston said so far, the program has paid off with safer streets.

"They've spent much time helping us define what the problems are. And then they react to the problems," Alston said.

Of a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to Wake County, $1 million is dedicated to gang prevention and $500,000 to anti-recidivism directed at gang members who have served time. Raleigh is focusing its efforts on the southeastern section of the city that has the highest rate of gang-related crime.

"This strategy gives identified offenders a second chance to turn their lives around and become productive citizens," Holding said in a release.


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  • 6079 SMITH W Nov 24, 2009

    Well now, It hardly seems likely that they would go after "Frozen Squirrel toting criminals" would they? ;)

  • ericeric99 Nov 23, 2009

    the world we live in .... take look at the article about the "Kidnapper Nabbed Bad Drug Deal" on WRAL Home Page. This dopehead gets a bond of 650k while the murders of the little girl in Fayetteville get one for 100k. Not that either set of criminals could ever afford their bonds, but it just shows a large discrepancy in our legal system with judges and magistrates. Please have these people get on the same page, Govener Purdue. I wonder sometimes are you really looking to fix the system instead of getting media attention for trying to keep 80 year olds that have been locked up since the 1970's in jail.
    I always say “if your sitting on the pot you might as well do something that matters or get your behind up because someone else is in line dancing ready to take care of business!!!!Do you hear me Govener??

  • meh2 Nov 23, 2009

    I would like to see a crackdown on criminal politicians.

  • colliedave Nov 23, 2009

    Seems to be all about prosecution and nothing about prevention. Will there be foot patrols of known bad areas? Increased presence at all? Val36

    Humanist theory dictates that one can diminish crime/poverty. Over forty years of the "war on poverty" and thirty years of having a federal department of education has proven this to be false. What has been proven that a two parent family - a mother and a father - is a key part of reducing crime. But this solution is not PC.

  • beachbum1 Nov 23, 2009

    fatchanceimwrong - VERY NICE! ...especially this one!
    1. Build more jails because the culture that produces these kinds of violent criminals is not going to change.

    I wish there were a better way of getting rid of all of those lazy, gun packing fools, 15 year old fathers/mothers of 6 that think they are above the law loosers!

  • colliedave Nov 23, 2009

    $1 million is dedicated to gang prevention and $500,000 to anti-recidivism directed at gang members who have served time

    Probably for useless programs such as midnight basketball. One way to reduce recidivism is to make prison life so dificult people will not want to return

    Now, I'm all for getting stiff on crime, but 226 years for a 21 year old is by definition "cruel & unusual" in all cases except for murder. Phrostbite

    I guess you fail to understand that "life in prison" doesn't mean that one will spend the rest of his life above ground in prison.

  • mad_dash Nov 23, 2009

    Tired of Excuses..... Amen!!!

  • fatchanceimwrong Nov 23, 2009

    The solution is simple but the State of NC will never get tough on crime, no matter how many task forces they create. Here are my solutions:
    1. Build more jails because the culture that produces these kinds of violent criminals is not going to change.
    2. When arresting criminals, quit letting them out on bail. They just commit more crimes while out. Look at the Slammer paper at all the arrests for failure to appear. At some point they got arrested for not showing back up to court, but they had to be tracked down.
    3. When someone gets sentenced to 5 years, they should stay in jail for 5 years, not a day less.
    4. While in jail, they should be working hard labor all day, every day. Jail needs to be a place nobody wants to go instead a place to hang out with thier peeps.
    5. In the cases of juvenile crimes, the parents should be charged and held accountible. Maybe then they'll start parenting their kids.

  • chfdcpt Nov 23, 2009

    This is the same thing that Richmond VA did over 10 years ago.

    Too bad that our state has never seen it fit to make armed criminals serve a stiff sentence.

  • Common Sense Man Nov 23, 2009

    "Seems to be all about prosecution and nothing about prevention. Will there be foot patrols of known bad areas? Increased presence at all?"

    In most cities that participate they bring the criminals in who are known for violence and guns. They tell them that if they mess up again they will go federal and be sent to prison. They offer them all kinds of services to get their life back on track if they choose to do that.