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AG Tells Federal Prosecutors to Target Most Significant Violent Offenders

In a memo this week from Attorney General Jeff Session to federal prosecutors in the Justice Department’s 94 United States Attorney’s Offices, he directed federal prosecutors to focus and prioritize their efforts “to investigate, prosecute and deter the most violent offenders.”

“Turning back our nation’s recent rise in violent crime is a top priority for the Department of Justice, and it requires decisive action from our federal prosecutors,” Sessions said. “I’m urging each of them to continue working closely with their counterparts at all levels, and to use every tool we have to put violent offenders behind bars and keep our citizens safe.”

Sessions’ office said his directive “builds on the announcement last week of the creation of the US Department of Justice Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which is central to the Attorney General’s commitment to combatting illegal immigration and violent crime, such as drug trafficking, gang violence and gun crimes and to restoring public safety to all of the nation’s communities.”

The Task Force was announced February 28, and, according to the justice department, was “formed pursuant to the President’s Executive Order on a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety [to] be chaired by the Deputy Attorney General.  “Task Force members will be drawn from relevant department components, and will include the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Director of the FBI and the Director of the US Marshals Service [USMS].”

“The President issued an executive order, and I feel strongly about it,” Sessions said. “On my first day in office, I called in the heads of the four major law enforcement agencies to discuss this plan. Violent crime is on the rise, and we must always remember that crimes are committed against real people.  The creation of this task force is a critical step toward confronting this crisis vigorously, effectively and immediately.”

The task force is central to the Attorney General’s commitment to combatting illegal immigration and violent crime, such as drug trafficking, gang violence and gun crimes and restoring public safety “to all of the nation’s communities.”

The task force is charged with developing strategies to reduce crime; identifying deficiencies in existing laws and policies that have made them less effective in reducing crime and proposing new legislation and policies to improve public safety and reduce crime; evaluating the availability and adequacy of crime-related data and identifying measures to improve it; and conducting any other relevant studies. In conducting its work, the task force will consult with federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement, law enforcement organizations and victims’ and community advocacy organizations, among others, to learn about successful local efforts and how they can best be supported at the federal level.

“For more than a hundred years, the women and men of the FBI have worked to address threats to the American people,” said FBI Director James Comey. “I look forward to continuing and building upon the great partnerships with our federal, state, local and tribal counterparts on this initiative to combat violent crimes, gang activities and drug trafficking – all of which exact a high toll on our country.”

“The safety and well-being of our communities and our citizens is a vital part of our mission,” said Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg. “I look forward to our continued close work on the task force with our law enforcement partners on these crucial issues.”

“The men and women of the United States Marshals Service stand ready to work with our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to remove the underlying criminal element from our communities,” added Acting USMS Director David L. Harlow, who noted that, “In 2016, working with our task force partners, the USMS arrested over 106,000 violent fugitives. We look forward to finding innovative methods to further reduce violent crime across our nation.”

ATF Acting Director Thomas Brandon said “ATF’s top priority is reducing violent crime. Across the nation, ATF focuses its resources on arresting and prosecuting violent criminals who use firearms to terrorize communities. ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers provide timely, actionable leads to our agents and our partner agencies so they can identify, investigate and apprehend trigger-pullers and those who illegally supply them with firearms. ATF looks forward to working with Attorney General Sessions and our federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement counterparts to further enhance our violent crime reduction strategies through the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety.”

In his memo this week to all US Attorney’s Offices, Sessions made very clear that prosecuting violent criminals is a high priority, and that federal prosecutors should work closely with their federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners to target the most violent offenders in each district.  Working together, he said, law enforcement at every level should determine which venue – federal or state – would best get those identified immediately off our streets and punished appropriately for their crimes.

The memo directed that when federal prosecution is determined appropriate, federal prosecutors should ensure the individualsdriving violent crime in their district are prosecuted using the tools at their disposal, which may include firearms offenses, including possession and straw purchasing offenses; possession of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime or drug trafficking offense; Hobbs Act robbery; carjacking; violent crime in aid of racketeering; Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and drug offenses under the Controlled Substances Act, among others.

“The Attorney General recognized that many offices are already employing these strategies and asked that those offices ensure their efforts are achieving the desired results,” a Justice Department announcement said, adding, “Additional guidance and support in executing this priority will be forthcoming.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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