The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, has completed a review of the Violent Crime Task Forces (VCTF) of the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia (USAO). This review determined whether the VCTFs met their program objectives as identified in the task force proposals, whether the task forces expended funds for approved purposes, and whether program managers provided adequate oversight. See Appendix I for details on scope and methodology.
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. 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. On January 4, 1995, the Director, Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA), notified the United States Attorneys that the Congress had earmarked $15 million in the United States Attorneys' fiscal year (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 systematically and more effectively attack 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, the EOUSA established a committee to review the United States Attorneys' proposals. It included a representative from the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, the Criminal Division, and representatives from law enforcement organizations within the Department of Justice. The review committee approved funding for use by the VCTFs in these categories: support staff, overtime, supplies, rent, office equipment, computer equipment, and investigative equipment. In March 1995, the committee made funding recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General, who then made the final funding decisions.
On February 1, 1995, the USAO for the District of Columbia submitted four proposals for VCTFs to the EOUSA. In addition, on February 9, 1995, the USAO submitted a letter to the Director, EOUSA, supporting the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Safe Streets Initiative (Safe Streets). The EOUSA's review committee approved funding to create a gun task force known as Operation Ceasefire and for the continuation of Safe Streets in the District of Columbia.
The USAO's funding proposal requested $1,384,000 for Operation Ceasefire, which included $718,000 for overtime, $250,000 for equipment, $250,000 for media and advertising, $200,000 for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Firearms Identification Unit for overtime and equipment, and $84,000 for police salaries associated with training. Submitted through the USAO, the FBI's funding proposal requested $420,464 for Safe Streets, which included $254,444 for administrative expenses and $166,020 for overtime.
On March 22, 1995, the Director, EOUSA, notified the USAO that $968,000 was approved for Operation Ceasefire, the second largest individual amount approved by the EOUSA. It included $634,000 for overtime and $334,000 for office equipment. The FBI received $166,000 for Safe Streets overtime only.
OPERATION CEASEFIRE PROGRAM GOAL AND OBJECTIVES
The goal of Operation Ceasefire was to reduce, by the year 1999, the violent crime rate by 40 percent to its pre-1986 level when the crack cocaine epidemic produced an unprecedented wave of drug-related violent crime in the District of Columbia. Based on the success of a similar program in Kansas City, the USAO's proposal sought to increase the number of weapons seized and to decrease the incidence of violent crime.(1) Operation Ceasefire was designed to address the occurrence of gun-related violence and it had three objectives.
Aggressively Detect and Seize Illegal Firearms
Operation Ceasefire's first objective contained several key components. The USAO in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the FBI National Academy, and the MPD planned to train approximately 100 officers in effective and constitutionally legitimate firearm recovery techniques. The MPD planned to establish individual gun recovery units (GRU) in six police districts composed of seven MPD officers, one MPD sergeant, and one ATF Special Agent. Working in teams, these trained officers were to focus exclusively on the seizure of firearms in targeted areas by executing such operational procedures as traffic stops, street encounters, and search and arrest warrants. In addition, the ATF was to provide assistance in tracing the seized firearms.(2) The USAO also proposed to expand its program of debriefing anyone charged with an offense involving a firearm, to establish a standard debriefing protocol, and to designate a "firearms prosecutor" who would be responsible for coordinating the investigation, prosecution, and intelligence gathering of all firearms cases prosecuted by the USAO.
Increase the Penalties for Individuals Convicted of Illegally Possessing Firearms
The USAO planned to accomplish this second objective by initiating a legislative package that would increase the certainty of punishment of those convicted of illegally possessing firearms. By amending the District of Columbia Code, a charge for firearm possession would increase from a misdemeanor to a felony, and as a result, the penalties would also increase. Additionally, the USAO planned to introduce a forfeiture provision in the District of Columbia code to seize vehicles used in concealing, possessing, or transporting firearms, and to encourage consideration of curfew legislation for youths 16 and younger.
Educate Youth about the Destructive Potential of Firearms
The final objective of Operation Ceasefire was to conduct an extensive public education campaign calling upon all sectors of the community to contribute to changing the way people view guns. This campaign was to be accomplished through a partnership among the USAO, local law enforcement agencies, the District of Columbia school system, political figures, and local members of radio and television affiliates. Youth forums were to be held at area junior and senior high schools in an attempt to reduce violence in the community by engaging youth, parents, teachers, and other community leaders in violence prevention training.
SAFE STREETS PROGRAM GOAL AND OBJECTIVES
The FBI requested the USAO to submit a funding proposal for the continuation of Safe Streets operations. According to the FBI's Washington Field Office (WFO) funding proposal, the overall goal of Safe Streets, which began in October 1991, was to reduce crime in the nation's capital and to make it a safer place to live. In FY 1995, the EOUSA approved $166,000 for use by the FBI in reimbursing the overtime expenses of MPD police officers assigned to Safe Streets. The WFO proposed distributing the overtime funds to three squads, specifically, $36,893 for the fugitive squad, $73,787 for the gang squad, and $55,340 for the homicide squad.
1. The USAO's proposal derived the 40 percent reduction goal from the program in Kansas City that showed a drop in gun-related crimes by 49 percent. The "pre-1986" phrase refers to 1986.
2. Tracing is the systematic tracking of firearms from manufacturer to purchaser for the purpose of identifying suspects involved in criminal violations, establishing stolen status, and providing ownership.