U.S. Attorney’s Office and State and Local Partners Announce Expansion of Firearms Prosecution Initiative Targeting Gun Violence in Baltimore
Also Announced Funding for Community Outreach and Intervention Efforts; Increased State Funding to Hire Additional Prosecutors Builds on 84 Federal Gun Possession Cases Charged in Baltimore Since January 2020 – Despite Pandemic
Baltimore, MD (STL.News) Today, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner announced a significant expansion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s collaborative initiative with state and local law enforcement to prosecute the illegal possession of firearms in Baltimore. The expansion of the initiative, known as Project EXILE, includes state funding to hire additional prosecutors to bring firearms-related offenses in federal court and for a media campaign supporting outreach efforts into Baltimore neighborhoods. This collaborative firearms prosecution initiative brings prosecutors from the Maryland Office of the Attorney General and Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office into the U.S. Attorney’s Office to focus on individuals illegally possessing firearms in Baltimore.
At a press conference today with federal, state and local partners, Acting U.S. Attorney Lenzner also announced that, despite the pandemic which resulted in the Grand Jury being cancelled for several months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 73 federal gun possession cases in Baltimore during the 2020 calendar year, and 11 additional firearms cases as of April 30, 2021.
One of the reasons for the success of the program in Baltimore is the use of Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) provided by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City and funded through grants from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth & Victim Services. These SAUSAs, who almost exclusively handle federal gun and violent crime cases, are force multipliers in the fight against violent crime. In addition to taking the lead in prosecuting violations of federal firearms law arising in Baltimore City, the SAUSAs have also assisted the Baltimore Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in 31 separate homicide and non-fatal shooting investigations in Baltimore City.
As a result of the number of firearms cases brought in the past year by the unit of SAUSAs, the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, & Victim Services has agreed to fund in Fiscal Year 2022 a total seven Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to focus on Baltimore gun cases—an increase from FY 2021 of three additional SAUAs.
“Reducing violent crime in Maryland is our number one priority, and we take personally every homicide and non-fatal shooting that occurs in our district,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner. “While we are proud of the work we have done, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we recognize that we have a long way to go to reduce the gun violence in our communities. In Baltimore, our relentless focus on reducing the gun crime that plagues the City has resulted in more federal gun possession cases charged in 2020 than during the entirety of 2019—and we are continuing to move forward. We are grateful to the Governor for funding the prosecutors that have been an integral part of our violent crime strategy, and to Attorney General Frosh and State’s Attorney Mosby for their partnership in prosecuting gun crimes. We are committed to working with Commissioner Harrison, ATF Special Agent in Charge Jones and their teams to focus on prosecuting the violent offenders who wreak havoc in our communities.”
“Our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office has enabled us to tap into additional resources to investigate and prosecute violent crime,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. “It has helped provide justice for victims and a greater measure of safety for communities in our state.”
“Reducing violent crime in the city is a multi-pronged effort that requires strong partnerships,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “We are grateful for the collaboration with the US Attorney on gun violence and applaud the office’s commitment to improving public safety for the citizens in Baltimore City.”
“Reducing gun violence in Maryland, especially Baltimore City, is critical for citizens and neighborhoods to be able to grow and thrive. Every day ATF focuses our efforts on identifying criminals who threaten the safety of these communities and each successful prosecution of a felon who violates federal law is one step further in this mission,” said ATF Baltimore Special Agent in Charge Tim Jones. “The additional resources and SAUSAs assigned to the EXILE program will work hand in hand with the cases ATF investigates, expand the success of this partnership, and have a positive impact on the community.”
“The Baltimore Police Department is thankful for the ongoing partnership with our local, state and federal partners in tackling gun violence and reducing violent crime in Baltimore,” said Commissioner Michael Harrison. “Our department will continue to work collaboratively in pursuing those illegally carrying guns in our city and to strengthen cases to ensure that felons who are arrested for gun crimes are held accountable. I look forward to this continued partnership as we work together to create a safer city.”
While the use of federal resources and statutes, which carry significant terms of imprisonment—with no suspended sentences, and no parole—is especially helpful in prosecuting repeat violent offenders with guns, who pose the greatest threat to public safety, we must also reach out to the community to prevent violent crime.
A coalition of federal, state, and local government officials, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, and the Baltimore Police Department, are participating in a violence reduction program, I Care Baltimore. I Care Baltimore is a multi-faceted program designed to reduce violent crime by empowering community members, by highlighting programs that are making a difference in the City of Baltimore by offering alternatives to violence, and by increasing awareness of the consequences of federal prosecution for violent repeat offenders. The initiative, funded by a grant to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services, builds on our collaborative efforts to remove guns from the hands of criminals.
In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will work with our state and local community partners to coordinate municipal services in communities where enforcement efforts have taken place. To help returning citizens transition back into the community, the United States Attorney’s Office has a comprehensive directory of reentry services across Maryland, which is now standard-issue to federal and state probation and parole agencies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office plans to continue to sponsor job and resource fairs, which bring together a host of social services in one location so that returning citizens can learn about reentry services, obtain IDs, learn about GED and job training opportunities, and access other social services.
The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are continuing our efforts to address gun violence by using federal statutes prohibiting felons from possessing firearms. These types of reactive gun cases are one component of Maryland’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”), our violent-crime reduction strategy. The United States Attorney’s Office, through the use of Project Safe Neighborhoods, will continue to pursue felons with guns who constitute a clear and present danger to the safety and welfare of the citizens of Maryland.