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Posted: 3/12/2002 8:50:44 AM EDT
Prosecutors take aim at gun crimes The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) Final ; CITY ; Page 1B March 8, 2002 Byline: J.M. KALIL A new, federally funded team of local prosecutors working with police, ATF agents and the U.S. attorney's office will focus solely on curtailing gun violence in the Las Vegas Valley by seeking stiffer sentences for all crimes involving firearms. Top law enforcement officials said Thursday that the team's April 1 launch will bring a new approach to the way firearm violence is prosecuted in Southern Nevada. To put it simply, they said, all gun crimes will now mean hard time. The team of Clark County prosecutors will intensely heighten the push to get criminals who use guns off the streets and keep them in prison longer, District Attorney Stewart Bell said. " Gun violence is what makes people afraid to go to the corner store at night," Bell said. "Whether it's drive-by shootings or armed robberies, we no longer want to negotiate gun violence cases for anything less than prison time, period. That will be our objective: You use a gun in Clark County, you go to prison." The gun crimes unit, partially funded by a $480,000 Justice Department grant, will be composed of five deputy district attorneys and two investigators, Bell said. They will conduct weekly meetings with federal prosecutors, Las Vegas police firearms detectives and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to discuss pending criminal cases, Bell said. Their main objective is to share information and determine whether each person charged with a gun crime locally should be prosecuted in federal or county court to receive a maximum sentence. Daniel Bogden, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said the team's overall mission is simple. "We're looking to attack the violence of gun offenders," he said. "We are focusing on them and taking them off the streets immediately." In many crimes involving firearms, such as a robbery of a federally insured Las Vegas bank, both the Clark County district attorney's office and the U.S. attorney's office have jurisdiction of the case. "In those cases, you can make a strategic decision where to prosecute it," Bell said. "We can look at that situation and decide which justice system is going to give us the biggest bang for our buck." Mandatory minimums in federal sentencing often ensure that bank robbers receive harsher sentences when they are prosecuted in U.S. District Court. But certain aggravating circumstances that can occur during the commission of a gun crime are subject to more severe penalties if they are prosecuted in Clark County District Court. A preliminary version of the team, which has been operating since late October as Project Effect, has concentrated solely on apprehending and prosecuting felons in possession of firearms, Bogden said.
Link Posted: 3/12/2002 8:51:47 AM EDT
Bell said that team has already had tremendous success. "We're being looked at as the measuring stick at what can be done around the country," he said. John Torres, special ATF agent in charge of the San Francisco field office, which includes Nevada in its jurisdiction, said the preliminary team's effort has been amazing. "We're going to put a lot of people in jail with this and keep them there," Torres said. "Since we started, we've traced over 1,000 guns with Metro and now we're getting raw intelligence about firearms traffickers. The next project on this is going after the sources of those firearms." Sheriff Jerry Keller said his officers who investigate gun crimes "love" the preliminary team and are looking forward to the new unit because the investigative work police do will put criminals in jail longer. The announcement of the team came a day after Keller presented city leaders with statistics showing that violent crime, much of which involves firearms, jumped more than 13 percent last year compared to 2000. The increase was fueled by a 28 percent rise in aggravated assault and a 43 percent increase in homicides. "You look at a 28 percent increase in aggravated assault, and you're going to get that down when you take guns out of the hands of criminals," Keller said. "I think we're going to see dramatic results with the team. People say you can't affect the homicide rate, but I think you can. You start by taking criminals' guns away." The funding, granted through the Bush administration's two-year, $533 million Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, will help finance the unit for four years. The grant requires additional financial support from Clark County government. Bell said funds generated by the bad check unit, a division he instituted shortly after taking office in 1995, will fully bankroll the county's required contribution during the team's first year. Bell and Keller said they are confident the team will be continually funded by the county after it proves successful in stemming gun violence. "I personally have no doubt that we are going to be able to statistically demonstrate the importance and effectiveness of this effort," Bell said. "Everyone is going to agree this is worth the expense."
Link Posted: 3/12/2002 8:54:13 AM EDT
This is known as "using the laws already on the books." Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.
Link Posted: 3/12/2002 9:13:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/12/2002 9:14:59 AM EDT by Norm_G]
Let's hope they stick to criminals that use guns, instead of inventing paperwork "crimes" to charge honest people with. From words like this "We're going to put a lot of people in jail with this and keep them there," Torres said. "Since we started, we've traced over 1,000 guns with Metro and now we're getting raw intelligence about firearms traffickers. The next project on this is going after the sources of those firearms." I don't see much hope for that. Still can't spell. [:(]
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