- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 24, 2004

Metropolitan Police officers will join specially trained federal agents to combat violent crime in the city, the U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday.

The newly formed Violent Crime Impact Team will spend six months focusing on the 3rd and 4th police districts in Northwest, in which officials say there has been an increase in gang activity and drug-related violent crime.

Federal agents will be on loan from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the U.S. Marshals Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A Justice Department prosecutor also will be assigned to the District and the 14 other U.S. cities participating in the initiative.

Investigators using high-tech surveillance and crime-mapping technology are expected to focus on firearms violations committed by the worst offenders — gangs, drug cartels and other organized-crime groups.

In announcing the initiative, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Baltimore and Richmond also would be among those to receive the additional help.

“Our goal is to make an immediate impact on these communities by targeting repeat offenders with tough prosecutions and tough sentences,” he said.

Mr. Ashcroft said the ATF and the Justice Department jointly chose the cities and that they were not selected solely based on homicide or violent crime rates.

For example, as part of an overall decline in crime in the District this year, the number of homicides has dropped from 121 at this point in 2003 to 87 as of yesterday.

Mr. Ashcroft said officials picked the cities in part for their capacity to curb the violent crime problem.

“In other words, we think [these are places] where we can actually do some good,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

Among the District neighborhoods the impact teams will target are Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant and the Georgia Avenue corridor in Northwest.

“We will be targeting the most violent criminals in [the 3rd and 4th] districts,” said Phillip Durham, ATF assistant special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office. “Neighborhoods could vary depending on where the most violent people are. It could be drug gangs. It could be Hispanic gangs. It could be street thugs.”

Cmdr. Mark Beach, in charge of the Metropolitan Police Department’s major narcotics unit, said the federal partnership would be “filling a void” in parts of the District in which drug markets are emerging and attracting criminals from the city and the suburbs.

He said other areas such as the 6th and 7th police districts east of the Anacostia River, in which violent crime rates are traditionally high, already have been targeted by a number of local and federal partnerships.

The other cities in the initiative are Albuquerque, N.M.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Tampa, Fla.; Miami; Greensboro, N.C.; Tulsa, Okla.; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; and Tucson, Ariz.

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