Restructuring of U.S. Attorney’s Office leads to significant results in first year

NEWARK, NJ — One year after U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito reorganized the structure of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, overall criminal prosecutions have increased 51 percent, including a 65-percent jump in violent crime prosecutions, a 39-percent jump in narcotics-related prosecutions and a 15-percent jump in white collar crime prosecutions, according to a March 12 press release.

Carpenito’s goal in restructuring the office was to focus on areas of criminal and civil enforcement that would pay the biggest dividends in protecting New Jersey’s citizens. To that end, he established three new units in the Criminal Division — the Opioids, Violent Crime and Cyber units; increased the number of prosecutors by approximately 25 percent; doubled the size of the office’s paralegal corps; and implemented an “eLitigation” program to improve the way the office receives and processes information.

“Over the past year, we have focused our efforts in gun and drug cases to target the most violent offenders,” Carpenito said. “The results have been very encouraging. Both Newark and Camden, for example, have seen significant drops in their respective crime rates, year-over-year, and both are at their lowest crime rates in 50 years. But statistics only tell part of the story. These results also have a positive impact on the lives of the people who live here.”

“The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office’s responsiveness and flexibility in dealing with a shifting threat picture is a true model for progressive prevention,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said. “The reorganization of critical assets has greatly increased prosecutorial efficiency, allowing New Jersey local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to more effectively combat criminal and national security challenges.”

“U.S. Attorney Carpenito’s new vision for his office is bringing great results,” said Susan A. Gibson, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division. “His formation of the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Unit sends a clear message that his office will prosecute those who choose to poison our communities with these very dangerous drugs.”

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 467 defendants by indictment or information. By contrast, in the one year since Carpenito’s reorganization, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 707 defendants by indictment or information, an increase of 51 percent.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office leads “Violent Crime Initiatives,” partnerships among federal, state and local law enforcement, in two major areas in New Jersey: Newark and Jersey City. A similar model, known as “C-4,” has been active in Camden for several years. The VCIs collect information from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, identify and prioritize the offenders posing the highest threats to public safety, and coordinate responses to those threats. Through the VCIs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office spearheads targeted investigations into individuals and organizations responsible for significant violent activity.

In October 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced two significant takedowns of violent drug gangs. On Oct. 11, the office charged 17 members, associates and drug suppliers of the Famous Boyz — a subset of the Brick City Brims set of the Bloods street gang — which dealt significant quantities of heroin and crack cocaine in Newark and possessed and used firearms in furtherance of the gang’s drug-trafficking activities. And on Oct. 25, the office charged 27 individuals who used violence as part of a conspiracy to distribute significant quantities of heroin and other narcotics in Trenton, and whose members possessed numerous firearms in furtherance of the gang’s activities.

The program has already shown success: crime is down 15 percent in Newark from 2017 to 2018; shooting incidents are down 30 percent in Newark between 2017 and 2018, and down another 39 percent between comparable periods in 2018 and 2019; the office has taken more than 100 new cases arising from Newark since the reorganization; the VCI program has recently started in Jersey City, and shooting incidents are down 69 percent in Jersey City between comparable periods in 2018 and 2019; and violent crime was down 18 percent in Camden from 2017 to 2018.

“One of the advantages of the reorganization of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is the targeting of resources on the mission of reducing violent crime,” Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said. “In 2018 the U.S. Attorney’s office handled over 120 cases that specifically helped Newark, resulting in more than 100 fewer shooting victims compared to 2017 and a 35-percent reduction in robberies.”

Along with the renewed focus on violent criminal offenders, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued to pursue and prosecute white collar criminals, with the number of those defendants charged by information or indictment up 15 percent in the year since the reorganization was announced.

“I could not be prouder of the way this office and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners have worked to implement these changes, or the results we have achieved so far,” Carpenito said. “It’s because we are a team, no one person or entity more important to the mission than any other, that we succeed. But challenges remain and we must remain vigilant if we hope to build on our success. As the current caretaker of this office, I’m proud to have the opportunity to continue the outstanding traditions of this place and law enforcement in New Jersey.”