NEWARK, NJ — One year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions has made the centerpiece of the department’s violent crime reduction strategy, according to an Oct. 1 press release from the U.S Attorney’s District of New Jersey Office. PSN is an evidence-based program proved 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 re-entry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
In line with the Justice Department’s priority to combat violent crime, the District of New Jersey designated three cities — Newark, Camden and Jersey City — as its Project Safe Neighborhoods target areas. In the one year since the department announced its relaunching of the PSN program, it has already shown measurable progress in the prosecution and deterrence of violent criminals in these communities, according to the release.
“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” 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.”
To implement the goals of PSN and combat violent crime in Newark, the Violent Crime Initiative was formed in August 2017 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, the City of Newark’s Department of Public Safety and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. As part of this partnership, federal, state, county and city agencies collaborate and pool resources to investigate and prosecute violent offenders who endanger the safety of the community. The VCI includes the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshal’s Office; the Newark Department of Public Safety; the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office; the Essex County Sheriff’s Office; the N.J. State Parole Board; the Union County Jail; the N.J. State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center/Real Time Crime Center; the N.J. Department of Corrections; the East Orange Police Department and the Irvington Police Department.
“The cases described below illustrate just how effective law enforcement can be when federal, state and local partners all work together and focus their resources on the most serious violent offenders,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “Our joint efforts are reducing violent crime in the communities most affected by it. Street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, we are making those areas safer.”
“Our valued partnership with each member of the Violent Crime Initiative strengthens our unwavering commitment to rid our streets of illegal weapons and narcotics throughout the city of Newark,” Newark Department of Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said. “We are pleased that the U.S. attorney, Jeff Sessions, has spearheaded the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, along with U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito, to ensure that the people of Newark, Jersey City and Camden enjoy safety and the improved quality of life they deserve through this ongoing, targeted reduction of violent crime on our streets.”
According to documents filed in court over the past year, the investigations implemented as part of Newark’s VCI have yielded the following results:
Between March and September 2018, 28 alleged members of a drug-trafficking organization that dealt kilogram-quantities of heroin in and around Newark, specifically the area near Hayes Street and 14th Avenue, were charged federally with narcotics and firearms offenses. The organization is composed of members of the Brick City Brims set of the Bloods street gang, many of whom have perpetrated violence against, and been the targets of violence by, rivals in connection with their narcotics-trafficking and gang activities. As part of this ongoing investigation, at least six firearms have been seized.
In September 2018, six alleged members of a drug-trafficking organization led by Andre Mims were prosecuted federally for distributing heroin throughout Newark, including to customers who traveled from all over New Jersey and even as far as Florida. Two defendants are also charged with firearms offenses. At least an additional 15 defendants tied to the organization are being prosecuted by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. As part of the collaborative efforts by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, two firearms were seized in connection with the investigation.
During the past year, at least 15 additional violent offenders and gang members have been prosecuted as part of Newark’s Violent Crime Initiative, and additional arrests are anticipated. Overall, crime is down 12 percent in Newark since last year, but there has been a far greater decrease in violent crime, with 74 fewer shooting victims and 45 fewer shooting incidents during that time.
Federal efforts to combat violent crime are not just limited to the three designated PSN target areas. Throughout the district of New Jersey, the prosecution of firearms offenses has increased by more than 130 percent this year alone. Over the past year, the state of New Jersey has experienced a 23-percent reduction in shooting victims and a 27-percent reduction in shooting incidents.