Inspection of the Violent Crime Task Forces
in the Southern District of New York
Report Number I-2000-03
The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, has completed a review of the four Violent Crime Task Forces (VCTF) of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (USAO). This review determined whether the VCTFs met their program objectives as identified in the task force proposals and approved reprogramming requests, whether the task forces expended funds for approved purposes, and whether program managers provided adequate oversight. This report does not reflect a comprehensive review of the USAO's overall efforts in combating violent crime. See Appendix I for details on scope and methodology.
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S NATIONAL ANTI-VIOLENT CRIME INITIATIVE
On March 1, 1994, the Attorney General issued an Executive Summary to all United States Attorneys making the fight against violent crime a priority for the Department of Justice (DOJ). The memorandum proposed a National Anti-Violent Crime Initiative designed to identify crime problems, to develop targeted strategies, and to build coordinated inter-governmental partnerships.
The United States Attorneys were asked to designate a senior Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) as their office's violent crime coordinator. The United States Attorneys were to meet with all pertinent federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and form a new, or strengthen an existing, violent crime working group. In addition, the United States Attorneys were to undertake a survey to identify violent crime problems, priorities, resources, results, and multi-district or multi-jurisdictional aspects of the violent crime problems in their districts. The survey results were to be forwarded to the Criminal Division, Terrorism and Violent Crime Section, and used to develop a strategy to combat these issues.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York co-chaired a meeting in the spring of 1994, with federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations. They formed a working group consisting of representatives from each of the law enforcement agencies in their respective jurisdictions. Overall, the group determined that the most serious problems existing in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York were violent gangs, violent fugitives, and the proliferation of firearms. This working group implemented investigative strategies to specifically address these areas. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) established a task force to investigate violent gangs. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and New York City Police Department (NYPD) established a task force to investigate drug activity in public housing projects. The NYPD, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) formed a firearms task force to target illegal gun traffickers. In addition, the United States Marshals Service (USMS) conducted several multi-agency operations in an effort to remove various types of violent fugitives from the streets of New York. The FBI also formed a fugitive task force with the NYPD focusing on the most violent felony cases.
In July 1994, the Senate Committee on Appropriations for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies included $25 million in the fiscal year (FY) 1995 appropriation bill to implement the Attorney General's VCTF initiative. Funding for this initiative was subsequently reduced to $15 million during a Congressional conference between the Senate and the House.
On January 4, 1995, the Director, Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), notified the United States Attorneys that Congress had earmarked $15 million in the United States Attorneys' FY 1995 appropriation to establish VCTFs. These funds were to be used solely for the establishment of new VCTFs or to provide additional support for existing VCTFs. Working through the United States Attorneys' offices, these task forces would be comprised of federal agents and state and local law enforcement officers whose mission would be to attack systematically and more effectively the most serious violent crime problems within their jurisdictions. The EOUSA Director requested that interested United States Attorneys submit a plan detailing their districts' proposals and requirements to support the VCTF initiative.
In February 1995, EOUSA formed a committee with representatives from the Deputy Attorney General's Office, Criminal Division, FBI, DEA, USMS, INS, Attorney General's Advisory Committee, and EOUSA to review the United States Attorneys' VCTF proposals. This committee reviewed the appropriation language (Public Law 103-317) and accompanying Committee Conference Report to determine Congress' intent in providing VCTF funding.
The EOUSA review committee evaluated the USAOs proposals based on: 1) type of project and 2) use of the funds. The objective was to eliminate proposals that were not clearly within the intent of Congress as interpreted by the EOUSA review committee. Each proposal was classified into one of seven funding categories: Violent Crime Task Force, Drug or Drug Traffickers Task Forces, Gang Task Force, Gun Task Force, Fugitive Task Force, Intelligence System, and Others.1 The review committee made a determination that those projects identified in the Intelligence System and Others categories did not meet the intent of the VCTF appropriation language and would not be considered for funding.
The review committee analyzed the VCTF funding proposals and grouped them by use of the funds into the following categories: support staff, overtime, office equipment, supplies, computer equipment and software, rent, investigative equipment (radio equipment only), cellular telephones, computer networks, vehicles, investigative staff, training, and buy money.2 The review committee made a determination that cellular telephones, computer networks, vehicles, investigative staff, training, and buy money did not meet the intent of Congress and would not be considered for funding. In March 1995, the committee made funding recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General, who then made the final decisions.
After these decisions were made, the Director, EOUSA, issued award letters that contained guidance on accounting, reporting, and the use of the VCTF funds. EOUSA subsequently issued additional guidance pertaining to transfers between funded categories and budget maintenance, questions and concerns regarding the VCTF program, and property management and use of support staff. EOUSA further increased the flexibility over the use of the VCTF funds. In July 1998, it amended the previously issued guidance regarding the disallowance of transfers of funds between task forces and from the overtime category to other approved categories, allowing such transfers to occur upon the approval of the review committee.
The EOUSA review committee reviewed requests by the USAOs for reprogramming, or transferring, of VCTF funds between budget categories and task forces.3 After reviewing the reprogramming request, EOUSA faxed a memorandum summarizing the information to each of the review committee members. In addition, EOUSA forwarded its recommendation to approve or disapprove the transfer.
Each review committee member voted to approve or disapprove reprogramming VCTF funds. The majority of review committee members usually voted in accordance with what EOUSA recommended. However, there were a few instances in which the members contacted EOUSA with questions regarding the requests and voted against EOUSA's recommendation. The review committee members did not contact the USAOs directly. After deciding to approve or disapprove a request, the committee members faxed their votes to EOUSA. EOUSA reviewed the votes, and in the event of a tie, the Director, EOUSA, cast the deciding vote. EOUSA then sent a decision letter to the USAOs with the approval or disapproval of their requests. The review committee members did not receive a copy of the decision letter sent to the USAOs by EOUSA.
THE USAO VCTF PROPOSALS
The USAO for the Southern District of New York submitted proposals to EOUSA requesting funding to support four VCTFs: the USAO Asian Gang VCTF, the USAO Latin Kings VCTF, the DEA New York City Housing Authority VCTF (Housing Authority VCTF), and the FBI VCTFs. An analysis of the differences between the approved task force activities and those that were eventually implemented and an assessment of administrative and financial controls is provided in the "Results of the Inspection" section of this report. Below is a summary of each task force's goal, objectives, funding requests, and the amount of VCTF funding approved by EOUSA.
USAO Asian Gang VCTF
On January 31, 1995, the USAO submitted a proposal requesting funding for an Asian Gang VCTF.4 The proposal stated that the Asian Gang VCTF would "create a genuine law enforcement partnership, emphasizing the particular strengths of each participating agency" and pursue a "coordinated approach to combating Asian violent crime." The task force participants would include representatives from the FBI, ATF, INS, USMS, New York State Police, and NYPD. The USAO proposed to rent space for the task force participants and create an intelligence database consisting of approximately 2,000 records on Asian gang members.
The USAO requested $830,000 for the Asian Gang VCTF, which included $260,000 for rent, $200,000 for overtime, $175,000 for support staff, $150,000 for computer equipment for the Unified Asian Intelligence Database (UAID), and $45,000 for office furnishings. On March 22, 1995, the Director, EOUSA, notified the USAO that $668,000 was approved for the Asian Gang VCTF, the fourth largest individual amount approved by EOUSA. The USAO received $180,000 for rent, $200,000 for overtime, $138,000 for support staff, and $150,000 for computer equipment for the UAID.
USAO Latin Kings VCTF
On January 31, 1995, the USAO also submitted a proposal requesting funds to formalize its Latin Kings VCTF. The USAO's proposal referenced its informal task force created approximately one year prior to the funding request to combat the criminal activities of the Latin Kings gang. The participants in the Latin Kings VCTF included members of the FBI, ATF, NYPD, New York City Housing Police Department, New York City Department of Corrections, and New York State Department of Corrections. The proposal noted that "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."
The USAO requested $276,000 for the Latin Kings VCTF operations. This total included $120,000 for rent, $100,000 for overtime costs, $40,000 for support staff, $6,000 for computer equipment, $5,000 to lease a vehicle, and $5,000 for an informant fund. On March 22,1995, the Director, EOUSA, notified the USAO that $218,000 was approved for the Latin Kings VCTF. The USAO received $72,000 for rent, $100,000 for overtime, $6,000 for computer hardware and software, and $40,000 for support staff.
DEA New York City Housing Authority VCTF
On February 2, 1995, the USAO submitted a proposal requesting funding for the continuation of the Housing Authority VCTF.5 The task force was to focus on the "identification and removal of the leaders" of gangs who use Housing Authority developments as their base of operations and the "dismantling of their organizations." The participants of the task force included the DEA, the New York City Housing Authority Police, the United States Secret Service, and the ATF.6
The USAO requested $365,000 for the Housing Authority VCTF, which included $250,000 for overtime, $15,000 for office equipment, and $100,000 for investigative equipment. On March 22, 1995, the Director, EOUSA, notified the USAO that $159,000 was approved for the Housing Authority VCTF. The approval included $144,000 to reimburse the New York City Housing Authority Police Department for overtime to conduct task force operations and $15,000 in office equipment.
On February 2, 1995, the USAO also submitted a proposal to EOUSA requesting funding for the continuation of the FBI VCTFs. The VCTFs were to "target selected emerging and non-traditional drug trafficking organizations and other organized crime enterprises responsible for inordinate numbers of violent criminal activities." The USAO's funding proposal covered six investigative task force squads in the Violent Crime and Major Offenders Branch and the Drug Branch of the FBI's New York Office. These task force squads included investigators from the FBI, NYPD, and INS. A brief description of each task force squad follows.
The USAO requested $250,000 for the FBI VCTFs, which included $150,000 for support staff and $100,000 for investigative expenses. These funds were to be used to provide foreign language specialists, financial analysts, accounting specialists, and intelligence analysts contracted to support ongoing investigations and pending prosecutions. On March 22, 1995, the Director, EOUSA, notified the USAO that $150,000 for support staff was approved for the FBI VCTFs.
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