Feds vow more action on gun crimes
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2013
1/28/13 at 7:10 AM
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Local federal authorities are vowing to work even harder to fight gun crimes in the aftermath of a quadruple homicide earlier this month that shocked the community.
"I think we are on the right track," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Faerber, coordinator of the Northern District of Oklahoma's Project Safe Neighborhoods. It's part of a national effort to reduce gun and gang crime through an approach that combines prosecution of those suspected of breaking firearm laws and outreach efforts meant to change the environment that leads to such transgressions.
Since the 2007 fiscal year, more than 400 people have been convicted - either through a guilty plea or a jury verdict - in Tulsa federal court of firearms offenses.
However, the Jan. 7 shooting deaths of four women at the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue have left many wondering if law enforcement officials are doing enough to make Tulsa's neighborhoods safer.
Faerber said that recent events have led to discussions to see if there is "something we can do differently" to make the community safer.
Of course, the question of what to do about gun violence is far from strictly a local issue. A series of mass shootings, capped by the December shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., have sparked a national dialogue about what can be done to diminish the risk of similar massacres.
On Jan. 16, President Barack Obama announced a $500 million plan to fight gun violence, urging Congress to require background checks for gun sales and to ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Obama signed 23 executive actions that same day, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence.
Northern District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney Danny Williams Sr. said he was part of a conference call along with more than 90 of his fellow U.S. attorneys in which it was made clear the importance the Obama Administration is placing on the issue of stopping gun violence.
Williams has been on the job only since August, but he said the Tulsa U.S. Attorney's Office has been "very aggressive" through the years in combating gun crimes.
Faerber, who is also the deputy chief of the Tulsa U.S. Attorney's Office criminal division, said that reports received from the Tulsa Police Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are analyzed to pinpoint those people - typically repeat and/or violent offenders - who would be the best candidates for federal prosecution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Wilson, criminal division chief of the Northern District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney's Office, noted that federal prosecution brings with it tough sentencing possibilities such as the Armed Career Criminal Act, which guarantees at least a 15-year sentence to those convicted who have at least three violent felony or serious drug offenses on their record.
However, all three men stressed that there is a lot more to Project Safe Neighborhoods than prosecuting suspected criminals.
Williams said he plans to increase the number of outreach programs at local middle and high schools during his tenure.
He said he thinks it's important for at-risk children to see there are other options in life besides crime.
Faerber said local efforts such as the Disproportionate Minority Contact Reduction Initiative have sought to make a difference in the community.
The goal of the program, which began four years ago, has been to reduce disproportionate contact of minority youth with the juvenile justice system in Tulsa. The Northern District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney's Office has participated in the initiative along with various other law enforcement organizations as well as community service groups and other entities.
The Disproportionate Minority Contact Reduction Initiative recently sponsored the Youth Peace Initiative, which involved 18 students from McLain High School and two youths from an alternative school.
The students participated in an 11-week series of skill-building classes. Seven students became peer educators who developed, produced and presented a film, along with a Tulsa police officer, entitled "The Ride Along," which teaches youth how to properly interact with police.
Statistics for the years 2009 through 2012 provided by the Office of Juvenile Affairs show that minority arrest rates in relation to white youth arrest rates dropped in the Tulsa metropolitan area.
But local federal authorities acknowledge there still remains a lot of work to do to make the Tulsa area safer.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun and gang crime in the U.S. by networking existing local programs that target gun and gun crime and providing the programs with additional tools necessary to be successful. Since its inception in 2001, approximately $2 billion has been committed to the initiative. This funding is being used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, distribute gun lock safety kits, deter juvenile gun crime and develop and promote community outreach efforts, as well as support other gun and gang violence reduction strategies.
Original Print Headline: Feds to do more on gun crime
David Harper 918-581-8359
Danny Williams Sr.: The U.S. Attorney will increase outreach programs in schools.