JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two weeks after Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Timothy Shea visited Florida and spent time talking with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams about violent crime in the city, the DEA has announced the launch of Project Safeguard.
It’s a violent crime reduction initiative that allows the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and federal marshals to partner with local police to go after violent offenders -- especially since the DEA says many of the violent crimes in Jacksonville are linked to illegal narcotics trafficking.
Under Project Safeguard, violent offenders will not only have to contend with state charges, but they will also appear in federal court where, if convicted, they could be looking at time in federal prison after their time in state prison.
During News4Jax’s ride-along with DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Dubet, with the Jacksonville District Office, he talked about the federal government’s newest effort to help Jacksonville police deal with violent criminals.
“These criminals are holding our neighborhoods hostage with the threat of violence," Dubet said.
As of Wednesday, according to News4Jax records, there had been 145 homicides and 115 murders since the beginning of the year in Jacksonville. Both Dubet and News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson say most of these killings are drug-related.
“Sale of the drugs and use of the drugs actually leads to other crimes," Jefferson said.
Dubet said: “With violent crimes and drug trafficking, you always have guns involved."
Therefore, the DEA is partnering with ATF to make sure violent offenders not only face federal drug charges, but also illegal gun possession and firearm trafficking charges on top of state charges. Jefferson says the initiative may shed light on where the guns are coming from because not every gun used on the streets of Jacksonville was reported as a stolen weapon.
“We always ask the question: Where are these guns coming from?" Jefferson said.
Police in 41 cities throughout Florida are taking part in Project Safeguard. Only time will tell if the initiative reduces violent crime throughout the state.
And it’s not just in Florida. Project Safeguard is being deployed in other areas of the country such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.