SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – 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.
“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 United States 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 United States 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.”
Northern District of New York United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith said, “Every neighborhood should be a safe place. We are completely committed to the continued implementation of the revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods to achieve that goal. It takes effective collaboration with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and other community agencies to curtail violent crime, and the drug, gun, and gang crimes that beget violence. Working together, we offer help for those who want a better life and a safer community, and the full breadth and force of federal and state law, including applicable mandatory minimum sentences, for those who persist with 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:
In the Northern District of New York, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works with federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the New York State Police; and sheriff’s offices, municipal and tribal police departments, and state prosecutors throughout our 32 county area, collaborating to curtail crimes of violence and associated drug, gang, and gun activity, and to prosecute those who commit such crimes in the most effective forum. Among others, these have included:
- United States v. Charles Tan: On June 22, 2018, the defendant pled guilty to the federal crime of receiving a firearm in interstate commerce intending to use it in the commission of a felony. The defendant admitted: that he paid another person to purchase a shotgun for him; that he knew the “straw purchaser” would have to lie to do so; and that he intended to use the shotgun to shoot his father. The defendant’s father was shot and killed in Rochester, New York, in June of 2015 and state murder charges against the defendant were dismissed following a mistrial. ATF and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department conducted the investigation. The defendant will be sentenced on November 19, 2018.
- United States v. Emmanuel Philippe, ATF and the Saratoga Springs (New York) Police Department investigated the defendant’s possession of 35 bags of cocaine base (crack), packaging material, and equipment for drug distribution, a loaded assault rifle and over 200 rounds of ammunition when his car was stopped. The defendant was convicted following a jury trial, and he will be sentenced on December 6, 2018.
- United States v. Jose Fontanez, Onic Martinez, Omar Dejesus, Dalmary Morales and Juan Suarez,ATF investigated the October 22, 2017 theft of more than 50 firearms from a federally licensed dealer in Glenville, New York. Five persons were charged with committing the burglary and transporting and/or storing the stolen firearms. The defendants have all pled guilty to charges related to the theft or possession of stolen firearms. Omar DeJesus, Dalmary Morales, Jose Fontanez and Juan Suarez will be sentenced on December 17, 2018. Onic Martinez will be sentenced on December 13, 2018.
- United States v. Alfred Laquann “Merc” Thomas, after state court charges were dismissed due to uncooperative witnesses, Thomas pled guilty to the federal charge of possessing ammunition as a convicted felon and was sentenced to 115 months in prison. The sentence was an upward departure based on the fact that Thomas possessed the ammunition while taking part in a drive-by shooting of an occupied house in Syracuse. During his sentencing hearing, the court also heard evidence that Thomas had admitted to agents that he had committed an unrelated murder for which he had been tried and acquitted in state court. The sentence was affirmed on appeal in May 2018. The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Syracuse Police Department.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York participates in local partnerships with community organizations and law enforcement agencies to combat violence, drug abuse, and promote offenders’ successful reentry into society following their release from federal prison. These include:
- Anti-gang violence/focused deterrence “call-in’ meetings with at risk youth as part of “Syracuse Truce,” “Utica Save Our Streets,” “Albany Violence Eradication,” and “Schenectady Strong.” Since 2012, U.S. Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhood grants have provided $1.2 million dollars for anti-violence law enforcement actions and community engagement activities in Syracuse.
- Intensive Reentry Court, through which selected offenders, including former gang members, returning from prison participate in a highly structured federal court-based program to reintroduce them into society with the skills, habits, training, and support to avoid a return to the criminal justice system. The U.S. Attorney’s Office participates with Federal Judges, U.S. Probation Officers, and the Federal Public Defender’s Office in this rigorous program that has continued over the past decade in Syracuse and Albany.
- Anti-drug abuse efforts: The United States Attorney’s Office has partnered with community coalitions, school districts, civic and religious organizations, colleges and universities, local, county and state agencies to present over 70 community outreach programs to promote prevention and education in the midst of the opioids epidemic. Many of the programs have featured screenings of “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict,” coupled with guest speakers, panels comprised of health professionals, first responders, law enforcement, addicts in recovery, and parents of overdose victims, and information about community resources. These activities complement our continuing work in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the investigation, interdiction, and prosecution of drug traffickers that are among the core missions of the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States Department of Justice.
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.