Department of Justice Highlights Efforts to Combat Gang Violence
High ranking members of the Department of Justice held a roundtable discussion, in south Florida, with members of the press to highlight the Department of Justice’s activities to combat gangs. In this regard, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, R. Alexander Acosta, announced that his Office has been working with Mark. R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Julie Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), Jonathan I. Solomon, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, along with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, in a concerted effort to rid the south Florida community of the crime and violence associated with gang activity. In south Florida, as in other parts of the nation, drug distribution rings and other criminal gangs have historically conducted their business through fear, intimidation and violence. All too often, this has resulted in fear and violence neighborhoods and communities, as gang members, their associates, and rivals, battled over turf, money, and power. Such violence inevitably leads to death – not only of gang members, but also of innocent victims living in these embattled communities.
The United States Attorney’s Office and its federal law enforcement partners are determined to help reduce this cycle of violence. To this end, over the past several months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal and state law enforcement have cooperated in a number of joint investigations and prosecutions aimed at bringing the most violent of these criminal gangs to justice. One example of the success of this cooperative multi-agency approach to reducing gang violence is Operation Lightning Bolt, a two-year investigation of drug rings operating in Miami's Overtown area. This multi-agency effort, which included the DEA, ATF, the United States Marshals Service, the City of Miami Police Department, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has led to the filing of criminal charges against 85 individuals, of whom 79 have been arrested (6 remain fugitives). Of these 85, 53 defendants were prosecuted federally, of which 50 have already been convicted. In addition, 31 firearms and $67,000 USD were seized.
In a further effort to reduce gang activity, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its federal law enforcement partners are involved in district-wide Multi-Agency Gang Task Force Units (MAGTAF), working with the FBI and other federal agencies through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.
But prosecution and punishment alone will not end gangs and the violence they breed. Hence, a large part of the Department’s gang-reduction efforts focuses on gang resistance education. To this end, the U.S. Attorney’s Office participates and supports crime prevention summer camps, after-school programs, and youth leadership activities through Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Public Housing Safety Initiative, Weed and Seed, and similar community-based programs. In Broward County, for example, Weed and Seed and Project Safe Neighborhoods recently co-sponsored a Youth Summit in Hallandale Beach, attended by over 300 youths and adults, focusing on the need to end gang activity and gang involvement in our communities and schools. The Department of Justice also funds several gang education and prevention programs throughout the District, including G.R.E.A.T, a Gang Resistance Education and Training program in local schools, and the PAN ZOU anti-gang project in North Miami Beach.
“Drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand in our communities. DEA is committed to working with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to combat drug-related gang violence and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville.
U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta stated, “We will continue to work with our state and local law enforcement partners, and with community-based gang resistance organizations, to make our streets safer and to insulate and protect our neighborhoods from the lifestyle of violence and death associated with gang activity.”
“Gangs prey on our communities without regard to the damage they cause or the lives they ruin,” said ATF SAC Julie Torres. “We will not tolerate gang activity and the resulting gun-related cycle of violence and death. Our message is simple: federal law enforcement, and the ATF in particular, will not go away; we will continue to investigate and prosecute gang members to the fullest extent of the law. As a team – law enforcement, prosecutors, and concerned citizens – we will regain our streets.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Solomon stated, "Citizens have a right to live in a safe community. The FBI recognizes that violent crime in South Florida is on the upswing and has devoted additional manpower to combat gang violence to ensure that our streets are safe."