NOV 28 (PHILADELPHIA) – Federal officials today announced the results of the Violent Crime Reduction Partnership (VCRP), a collaborative law enforcement effort between federal law enforcement agencies and the Philadelphia Police Department to combat violent crime in some of Philadelphia’s hardest hit neighborhoods announced by Attorney General Eric Holder, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger and other Philadelphia officials on July 23, 2012.
As a result of the initiative, carried out over 120 days between June and September of 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 92 defendants in 77 indictments. The cases involve a variety of violent crimes, many of which are subject to lengthy mandatory minimum sentences, such as the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence (up to life in prison) for an “armed career criminal” in possession of a firearm. If convicted, 16 defendants will face sentencing as armed career criminals as a result of the VCRP with several more facing five and seven year mandatory sentences for using firearms during crimes of violence.
“This surge of federal resources in Philadelphia - as well as others underway in additional cities - has shown that we can enhance our ability to work with local law enforcement in areas where they're most needed so that we can better protect these communities,” said Attorney General Holder. “In these times of budgetary challenges - when police departments and other agencies are confronting growing demands with increasingly limited resources - the need for coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement authorities has never been more critical.”
The results were announced by U.S. Attorney Memeger, Special Agent-in-Charge Sheree Mixell with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI Special Agent-in-Charge George C. Venizelos, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge David G. Dongilli, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District David Webb, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey.
The DEA, focusing on the VCRP areas and in close cooperation with the Philadelphia Police Department, made 258 arrests (18 federal) for drug related offenses, and seized over 540 pounds of illegal drugs - including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP and marijuana - $1,451,442 in assets and more than 30 firearms. The DEA arrests included members of an international drug distribution organization that was supplying substantial quantities of heroin to Philadelphia.
During the VCRP period, ATF made a total of 84 federal and 17 state arrests, and purchased, seized or otherwise acquired 81 firearms during the VCRP period. Further, ATF dismantled several illegal firearms trafficking networks, resulting in the indictments and arrests of 18 individuals in August. Agents purchased more than 55 firearms directly from the alleged firearm traffickers before the firearms could be potentially diverted to the criminal element in the Philadelphia area. On June 18, 2012, ATF intervened to arrest a band of eight alleged robbers, one of whom was a Philadelphia County Corrections Officer, who were allegedly on their way to commit a home invasion gunpoint robbery for drugs.
The U.S. Marshals arrested over 300 fugitives charged with violent crimes and crimes closely associated violence, such as with homicide, robbery, assault, burglary, narcotics and weapons offenses. Among these fugitives was Rafael Jones, wanted for the murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Moses Walker, who was murdered on Aug. 18, 2012, in the VCRP area.
The FBI’s drug investigation efforts during the VCRP yielded over 140 arrests and the seizure of two dozen firearms, more than $25,000 in cash, and multiple kilograms of heroin and other drugs. This was in addition to their ongoing emphasis on investigating commercial robbery cases which also resulted in a number of federal charges during the VCRP.
“In recent years our office has focused increasingly on prosecuting the most serious violent offenders in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger. “The Violent Crime Reduction Partnership is an important tool in the Department’s continuing effort to incapacitate those criminals who are best described as the “worst of the worst.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration remains committed to Philadelphia and the efforts of the Philadelphia Police Department in the ongoing fight against violent crime,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Dongilli. “The arrests and seizures made during the ‘surge’ demonstrate the partnership of investigative resources between the Police Department and various federal agencies. Collectively leveraging each agency’s resources and expertise on a united front has proven to be the most effective approach in attacking violent crime and making the City a safer place for all. DEA looks forward to continuing its role in this partnership by investigating the drug trafficking organizations that are supplying the bulk quantities of illicit controlled substances in the City and that by their nature play a significant role in causing violence in Philadelphia.”
“The VCRP initiative demonstrated that ATF, along with our DOJ partners and the Philadelphia Police Department, remain unwavering in our joint commitment to fight firearms related violence in Philadelphia,” said ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Mixell. “This collaborative law enforcement effort has succeeded in investigating and removing many violent offenders from city streets, and has disrupted the flow of unlawful firearms to criminals to make our communities a safer place to live and work.”
The VCRP concentrated federal and local law enforcement resources on several police districts in East and North Philadelphia where violent crime has been a significant, long-term problem. By devoting substantial crime-fighting resources to these areas, federal and state law enforcement partners were able to remove a significant number of dangerous felons from the neighborhoods they were plaguing.
“The results of VCRP, achieved through the energetic devotion of resources and talent by all of the law enforcement agencies, were exceptional,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “I commend our partners in this effort who, with their agents and police officers and our Assistant United States Attorneys, worked long, hard hours to make VCRP a success and a nationwide model of federal and local law enforcement collaboration.”
As part of this coordinated effort, the ATF dedicated its law enforcement resources to the initiative, to include an additional 20 agents brought to Philadelphia from all over the country, to aggressively pursue the investigation of a large number of violent and firearms-related crimes, including a multi-defendant ring that sold dozens of firearms in the City, multiple armed robbery cases, and illegal possession of firearms cases. The FBI devoted heavy agent resources to hunting and catching fugitives within the VCRP area in Philadelphia, as did the U.S. Marshals and the Philadelphia Police Department. The FBI also continued its long-term, successful initiative investigating armed robberies of businesses affecting interstate commerce within Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. The DEA focused its resources on supporting and expanding investigations - both state and federal - into drug trafficking in the VCRP area.
“The men and women of the United States Marshals Service Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force focused on the most violent offenders in Philadelphia during OPERATION SURGE,” said U.S. Marshal Webb. “Partnering with the Philadelphia Police Department and other state, local and fed agencies, we arrested hundreds of violent offenders to include 21 suspects wanted for homicide. When violent offenders prey on our citizens and our communities, we will not stop until we track them down and return them to face justice.”
“The Philadelphia Police Department is appreciative of the efforts by local, state and federal authorities combined, in the task of fighting crime within Philadelphia,” said Police Commissioner Ramsey. “The ‘surge’ program has been successful in Philadelphia, thanks to the cooperation, involvement and support of federal authorities. Our department is looking forward to continuous support and future coordinated efforts with federal agencies in the ongoing fight against crime in Philadelphia.”
“Violent Crime has been a continuing priority for the FBI,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Venizelos. “Our efforts to address these types of crimes are not new, but we are working with our said partners with increased manpower and increased urgency to address current circumstances. The FBI is absolutely committed to this Partnership, and to policing and preventing violent crimes. We will continue to work with each of our partners to make our neighborhoods safer.”
“We have sent a strong message to criminals in Philadelphia with the success of this ‘surge’ operation, and I look forward to many more joint efforts like this in the future,” said District Attorney Williams. “By working together we are helping to make Philadelphia a safer city, one block at a time.”
“While the initial results are encouraging, we hope that by carefully analyzing the results of this four-month, collaborative effort, we will reap even more significant long-term results in more effectively fighting violent crime, especially in this era where we face a reduction in federal resources. Our long-standing focus on fighting violent crime, both in Philadelphia and other important cities within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will continue, and we will continue to build on the long-term law enforcement partnerships we've relied on during our successful Violent Crime Reduction Partnership,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger.
ATF and the Philadelphia Police Department also coordinated community outreach efforts as part of the VCRP initiative by working with Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) instructors and the Boys and Girls Clubs in the VCRP targeted areas. As part of a summer program, children received education about bullying, conflict resolution, and decision making.
ATF has moved to sustain the momentum gained during the VCRP initiative by dedicating one of its enforcement groups to partner with Philadelphia Police Department officers to continue the same enforcement strategy in the same targeted areas.The U.S. Attorney’s Office will be using the results of the VCRP initiative as part of an intensive effort to study violent crime in Philadelphia and the effectiveness of combating violent crime through innovative law enforcement techniques and community outreach. This rigorous study of the problem of violent crime - and the most effective long-term solutions - will be conducted by applying both law enforcement and academic resources.