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Inspection of the Violent Crime Task Forces
in the Southern District of New York

Report Number I-2000-03


Office of the Inspector General's Analysis of Managements' Responses

On November 3, 1999, the Inspections Division sent copies of the draft report to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The report contained four recommendations, which were addressed to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Director, EOUSA. We received a response from each of the aforementioned organizations and our analysis of the responses follows.

Recommendation number:

  1. Resolved-Open. The United States Attorney's Office (USAO) concurred with our recommendation to appoint Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF) property custodians and ensure that they are trained on the position's responsibilities, establish complete property records, and inventory all VCTF property. We will close the recommendation when the USAO or EOUSA notifies us that the property custodians have been appointed and the property records and inventories have been completed.

  2. Resolved-Open. The USAO concurred with our recommendation to complete the security background investigation for contractor personnel. The USAO indicated that this corrective action has already been implemented and expects that actions will be completed by January 15, 2000. We will close the recommendation when the USAO or EOUSA notifies us that the security background investigation has been completed for the Hunter College personnel.

  3. Resolved-Open. The EOUSA indicated that it believed that our recommendation to establish procedures for monitoring USAOs' adherence to the requirements of the VCTF would be impractical because most of the $15 million appropriated for the VCTFs has been expended and no other funding is anticipated at this time. In addition, EOUSA believes that any remaining funds would be spent before new guidance could be issued. EOUSA indicated, however, that it would send a separate memorandum to the USAOs with unexpended VCTF funds reminding them of the importance of adhering to EOUSA's guidance. EOUSA also indicated that it would request the Evaluation and Review Staff to include activities of the VCTF program during its district reviews. We will close the recommendation when we receive copies of the memoranda issued by EOUSA.

  4. Resolved-Open. The EOUSA responded that it would be impractical to issue additional guidance that requires USAOs to appoint a representative to monitor the activities of each VCTF within their districts at this late stage of the VCTF program. EOUSA indicated that the existing EOUSA guidance requires the districts to maintain adequate controls and to track the accomplishments of their task forces. EOUSA stated, however, that it would issue a separate memorandum that reminds the districts of the importance of monitoring their task forces to ensure that they are using the funds for approved purposes. We will close the recommendation when we receive a copy of the memorandum reminding USAOs of their responsibility to monitor their task forces.

In addition to responding to the recommendations, the USAO stated that the two computer systems developed with the VCTF funds were valuable projects and were responsive to the District's changing criminal landscape. As we stated in the report, we did not question the value of the projects or whether the funds were used to address violent crime or to support investigative activities that pertain to the violent crime initiative. However, we found that using funds for the development of the computer systems was inconsistent with the funding criteria established for the overall VCTF program and inconsistent with the other VCTF awards and reprogramming decisions made by EOUSA and the review committee.

The USAO's response was critical of the standards we used to assess whether the USAO met its task force objectives. As part of every inspection, we use established policies, procedures, performance measures, and other criteria to assess whether organizations are effectively implementing their programs. For our review of the Southern District of New York's Task Forces, we used the same criteria established by EOUSA and the review committee to manage the overall VCTF program. As stated in the VCTF appropriation language and a memorandum issued by the then Director of EOUSA, the VCTF funds were to support new or existing task forces. Accordingly, EOUSA and the review committee developed criteria that identified the types of task forces and the budget items that would be funded. They also identified activities and budget items that would not be funded. EOUSA and the review committee believed that by following the funding criteria, funds would be awarded for projects that met the intent of Congress when it appropriated the $15 million for the program.

In our view, the established funding criteria and administrative procedures were effective for overall program management. We reported that EOUSA and the review committee created a thoughtful and sensible process for reviewing and selecting task forces and activities for funding. EOUSA also established administrative controls that would ensure funds were expended for approved activities. Our review found that VCTF funds were awarded to a selected number of USAOs based on a competitive review process using the criteria developed by EOUSA and the review committee. We found that each of the task forces selected for funding met the VCTF funding criteria. Other USAOs -- including the five USAOs that proposed computer systems or networks -- did not receive funding for their proposals because they did not meet the funding criteria. According to the process, changes to the approved proposals also required approval from EOUSA and the review committee. We found that the requests for the reprogramming of funds were held to the same criteria. When EOUSA and the review committee decided to revise the established funding and administrative procedures, they formally notified the USAOs of the changes. In July 1998, EOUSA and the review committee amended the budgetary procedures because they were too restrictive. However, EOUSA and the review committee did not revise the types of activities that would be funded. Although the Southern District of New York's computer system projects may have been worthwhile for the office's overall fight against violent crime and received EOUSA and the review committee approval through reprogramming requests, the projects, in our opinion, did not meet the criteria established for the VCTF program.

The USAO also responded that we were inaccurate when we reported that their offices did not accomplish task force activities contained in the approved proposals. According to the approved proposals, the USAO received funds to strengthen two existing task forces. The proposal for the Latin Kings Task Force states

The Task Force faces an exploding level of activity by the Latin Kings and Netas. . . . We have formed a fruitful alliance with the local precincts who closely monitor the activity of those now on the streets. And we are in the process of formalizing our relationships with the various District Attorneys' offices so that there is a free flow of information between federal and state prosecutors. It is critical that the informal base of operations be strengthened by providing the Task Force with a central and responsive workplace, as well as the resources to accomplish its goals. (See page 3 in the Latin Kings Task Force proposal.)

The proposal for the Asian Gang Task Force states

We have begun to forge a working relationship between the various agencies involved in investigating Asian crime. Our proposal is to formalize that relationship into a Chinese Violent Gang Task Force. This task force would be composed of law enforcement personnel . . . . It would create a genuine law enforcement partnership, emphasizing the particular strengths of each participating agency and pursuing a coordinated approach to combatting Asian violent crime. (See page 2 in the Asian Gang Task Force proposal.)

In its reprogramming requests, the USAO informed EOUSA that the two task forces were no longer required and requested to use the majority of the VCTF funds to develop two computer systems that would be used to support the USAO's overall violent crime initiative. As our report shows, the task forces' approved budgets included some funds for the purchase of computer equipment for the development of databases that would be maintained by the task forces. With the reprogramming of funds, the task forces were not strengthened as proposed and most of the funds were used for computer systems developed and maintained by the USAO.

The DEA commented that the Housing Authority Task Force was not the task force funded under the VCTF program. DEA explained that the Housing Authority VCTF was only a descriptive term for the task force used in the funding proposal and that the official title of the task force was simply the DEA Task Force. DEA also responded that the VCTF funds were expended in support of investigative work conducted by the DEA Task Force, which continued to work the same types of cases with the same task force officers as the Housing Authority Task Force. According to the approved proposal, the initiative was entitled the "New York City Housing Authority Violent Crime Task Force" and its purpose was to focus on "the identification and removal of the leaders of these [drug] gangs [in the Housing Authority developments] and the dismantling of their organizations. As we stated in the report, even though the DEA enforcement groups were reorganized, we attempted to determine whether Housing Authority cases were the focus of the reorganized DEA enforcement groups and found that the cases reported as VCTF accomplishments were not Housing Authority cases. Because of the change in task force activities, we believe DEA should have requested approval, as required by the management controls established by EOUSA, to use the funds for the new activities. Moreover, DEA could not provide records showing the relationship between VCTF funds and investigative activities reported as VCTF accomplishments.

The FBI did not have comments on the report.

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