From the Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A two-month operation focused on reducing violent crime in Birmingham and across north Alabama resulted in federal charges against 71 defendants, with about 140 guns seized, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Marcus Watson and Acting Birmingham Police Chief Henry Irby III.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and ATF joined with local law enforcement in Birmingham, Jefferson County and across north Alabama in an intense effort in March and April to charge violent offenders and take guns off the streets.
“At the Department of Justice, we’ve increased violent crime prosecutions to 25-year highs and gun prosecutions to 10-year highs,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
“Under our Project Safe Neighborhoods program, I’ve directed our U.S. Attorneys to target the most violent criminals in the most high-crime areas, and to work with people in the community to develop a customized crime-reduction plan.”
“That’s exactly what U.S. Attorney Jay Town has done in Northern Alabama. I want to thank him, Sheriff Mike Hale, ATF, Birmingham Police, and all of our other fabulous law enforcement partners who have made these arrests and firearm seizures possible.”
“I have no doubt they have made my fellow Alabamians safer. This roundup is more proof that our targeted, community-based model really works.”
“These indictments represent the hard work of many of our law enforcement partners, especially the ATF, and exemplify our global efforts to return our neighborhoods to their rightful, peaceful owners,” Town said.
“The Department of Justice has reserved space in federal prison for gang members, trigger-pullers, violent offenders, and felons with guns … and we plan on filling it. We must shift our prosecutorial philosophy more towards Capone rather than Soprano, not conflating the level of crime with the level of criminal,” Town said.
“ATF and our partners are committed to removing the criminal element from the streets of Birmingham,” Watson said. “ATF Crime Gun Intelligence Centers are the driving force to reducing the violent crime that plagues our neighborhoods.”
“The Birmingham Police Department continues to pursue ways to help improve the quality of life for our citizens,” Irby said. “The Gun Round Up will have a huge impact on the City of Birmingham as it relates to violent crime. Violent crime is an epidemic that has no barriers. Our citizens deserve law enforcement’s combined efforts to ensure that they are safe and secure as they go about their daily lives,” he said.
“Our children, in particular, are our future. They deserve a chance to grow into productive citizens and do incredible things.”
“This is only the beginning of what I believe will put an end to the gun violence we are seeing day in and day out,” Hale said. “Our partnership and commitment with all participating agencies has never been stronger. Our resolve has never been stronger. That’s good news for the law-abiding citizens who deserve a quality of life that doesn’t include fear of harm at the hand of these violent thugs,” he said. “We will be here as long as it takes. That’s a promise.”
Cases involving about 24 of the 71 defendants are based in Jefferson County, but the remaining cases range across north Alabama and include five Talladega defendants indicted in March on drug distribution and firearms charges. Law enforcement seized at least 15 firearms in the Talladega case.
The majority of the 71 defendants facing current gun charges have at least one prior felony conviction.
The total number of prior convictions tops 160.
There are at least 40 additional arrests among the defendants for violent offenses, including charges such as domestic violence, assault and attempted murder, and at least 13 of the 71 defendants are suspected of having a gang affiliation.
Law enforcement seized one firearm from the majority of the defendants charged during the operation in March and April, but five or more guns were seized from at least eight defendants. Among the 140 firearms seized, at least 30 were identified as stolen, according to ATF.
These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, 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.