Project Exile: Program aims to get guns off city streets.

Can someone tell me why Liberals and/or Democrats do not like programs that actually work and get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals like the ones detailed below? Why do they think that only gun bans will work? Does anyone in SodaHead land have the answer?

Program aims to get guns off city Streets

Crime/Corruption News Keywords: GUN LAWS, NRA
Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Published: July 30,2000 Author: Frank Main
Posted on 07/30/2000 13:32:57 PDT by LadyDoc

Program aims to get guns off city streets


RICHMOND, Va.--Tyrone Dabney, a convicted felon, said he doesn't dare carry a gun anymore. Dabney, 36, did not know the name of Richmond's anti-gun crackdown, called Project Exile.

But like many residents of this Southern city of 190,000, he was familiar with its consequences.

"I know I'm not supposed to have a gun," Dabney said during a recent traffic stop, when police found a roll of $20 bills in his pocket and bootleg videotapes in the car but no firearms. "It's an automatic five years, man."

Project Exile was launched in 1997, when federal prosecutors began accepting most of the city's gun possession cases. Police felt they could get stiffer sentences in federal court.

The program was dubbed Project Exile because convicts were exiled to out-of-state federal prisons, severing their ties to family and friends.

Since last summer, when the Virginia Legislature put more teeth into state gun laws, convicts also have faced serious time in state prison.

Now a team of law enforcement officials refers gun cases to state court or federal court, depending on which laws are likely to provide stiffer sentences.

Project Exile is credited with helping curb Richmond's street violence and helping shed its dubious distinction as one of the murder capitals of America. The program also is a model for big-city gun crackdowns, including Project Surefire in Chicago,

Operation Cease Fire in Philadelphia and Face 5 in Atlanta.

It is not without critics. Federal judges have complained about hearing cases they think belong in state court. At least one state judge branded Virginia's new minimum five-year gun possession sentence as "one-size-fits-all" justice. And civil rights activists bristle that most defendants are African American.

Still, a cross section of residents, from cabbies to to executives, said in recent interviews that they support Project Exile.

"It's toned things down quite a bit," said Elizabeth Jones, 67, a street preacher who lives in the city's Churchill section. "It helps get guns off the street."

In interviews, police, prosecutors and judges said Project Exile has changed the behavior of street criminals.

In the past, street thugs regularly "packed heat," toting guns at all times. Today they often stash their guns in hiding places and only carry them when they need them. The result: fewer heat-of-the-moment shootings and fewer murders, officials said.

"We are finding fewer guns when we do the drug arrests and traffic stops," police Sgt. Wendell Miracle said.

Project Exile's high visibility has been the key to its success, officials say. Heavy advertising, some funded by the National Rifle Association, helped spread the message.

A city bus painted black had white block letters declaring: "An illegal gun gets you 5 years in federal prison." A TV ad showed an Exile prisoner pacing in his cell in silence. Thousands of wallet-sized cards were handed out publicizing a telephone number to report illegal guns.

Since the program started, murders fell about 48 percent, to 74 last year from 139 in 1997.

The decline came at a time when killings were decreasing nationwide. Richmond's murder rate seems to have leveled off this year.

"We have never said Project Exile is the saving grace of Richmond," said Cynthia Price, a police spokeswoman. But the program is a significant "contributing factor" in the decline of the city's violence, she said.

Salim Khalfani, executive director of the Virginia state conference for the NAACP, is not one of Project Exile's cheerleaders. Exile unfairly targets African Americans, he said.

About 60 percent of Richmond's population is black.

"We're not the only ones buying guns," Khalfani said. "The major illegal gun traffickers in Virginia are white."

Mark Shirley, a Richmond police detective assigned to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Project Exile office, said blacks aren't singled out.

"You're white, you're black, you're green, you're going to be prosecuted if you have [an illegal] gun," Shirley said. "We take it serious here."

Some judges also have misgivings about Exile. Last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Williams of Richmond sent a letter to U.S. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist complaining that Project Exile turned federal court into a "minor-grade state court."

And in the state courts, judges have been leery of the state's new five-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug dealers and convicted felons caught with guns.

"The judges are concerned about their loss of discretion in individual cases because there are times when the sentence is harsher than the judge would give," said Walter W. Stout III, chief judge for the Circuit Court of Richmond.

He found Granville Smithers' case particularly troubling. Smithers, 51, was convicted of a 1982 involuntary manslaughter. Then last year, he was caught with a gun he said he needed for protection.

In December, the judge was required to sentence Smithers to five years in prison, more time than he felt was warranted under the circumstances.

In the first three years of Project Exile, 590 defendants were indicted in federal court. The average sentence has been just under five years, although some defendants wound up with sentences of less than a year, and others were sent away for more than 15 years.

More than half of Richmond's gun cases have been prosecuted in state court since last summer, when the Virginia Legislature created its five-year minimum sentence.

A handful of the federal Exile prisoners have been released. One was freed in January and arrested recently on another firearms possession charge when police found a gun in his car during a traffic stop.

City officials said they are trying to prevent such repeat offenses with another program called Project Embrace. They are working with businesses to find jobs for released Exile prisoners.

"We need to make these people productive members of the community. Maybe they need an entrepreneurial job. Drug dealing is a business. Maybe they can take those skills and put them to good use," Price said.

*** Fear of five years behind bars has helped, cops say


RICHMOND, Va.--They are on the front lines of Project Exile.

Officers Sean Mocello, 27, and Michael Talbert, 36, are partners on Richmond's Rapid Mobilization Team. They troll the city for street crime.

"Exile is the best thing I've seen in 14 years," Talbert said, recalling one arrest in June when they stopped a man with crack cocaine and found a .357-caliber pistol in the trunk of the car. "It scares the bad guys to death."

On a recent balmy night, they were pulling over cars with expired tags, burned-out headlights and the like. Seemingly routine traffic stops have netted many of Project Exile's gun arrests.

On four hours of their evening shift, they worked in low-income neighborhoods on the East Side of this historic city, home to U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Most of the drivers they stopped were young black men. Mocello and Talbert searched several cars for drugs and guns but found nothing other than a Crossman BB-pistol under one driver's seat. They let him go with a warning.

Guns are an increasingly rare find on traffic stops here because criminals are scared of getting caught with a concealed handgun and facing five years in prison, the partners said.

Still, guns remain a problem. Gang-related drive-by shootings continue, and young thugs are using Chinese assault rifles and other high-powered weapons, Talbert said.

On a walk through one public housing development, the officers pointed out .38-caliber bullet casings littering a gangway. Maybe they were the leftovers of celebratory Fourth of July gunfire. Or perhaps they were fired in a shoot-out.

Mocello and Talbert approach every traffic stop with extreme caution.

It was 9:15 p.m. when they pulled over a 1992 Ford Escort because the front license plate was improperly displayed. The 19-year-old driver had a suspended license. Mocello searched the car. A duffel bag on the back seat contained a few bootleg videotapes but nothing meriting an arrest.

As the passenger, Tyrone Dabney, waited for the officers to finish writing his friend a court summons, he admitted he was a felon who had served about seven months in prison on a drug charge. Mocello searched Dabney, who was "clean." No gun. No drugs.

"In the old days I didn't worry about having a gun because I would have only gotten eight or nine months," Dabney said. "Not anymore."


Center here to help track illegal sales


A $600,000 federal gun center and a major advertising campaign will add firepower to Chicago's war on illegal weapons, officials say. The Chicago office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is expected to open the gun center in September to increase monitoring of firearms trafficking, said Tom Ahern, spokesman for the agency.

ATF agents and Chicago and State Police will work in a center stocked with equipment for tracing ownership of guns and matching bullets with weapons, Ahern said.

"In a short turnaround time, the gun center can provide investigators on the street, such as a police tactical unit that recovers a gun, information about who bought the gun and criminal histories of people who possessed the gun," he said.

The ad campaign will tout Chicago's Project Surefire, a partnership of federal authorities and police announced in April 1999 to halt illegal sales of guns to gangs. Federal gun prosecutions in Chicago more than doubled to 129 last year from 59 in 1998 under the new program.

"Street gangs have more of a fear of federal incarceration," Ahern said.

Promotions on buses, the L, billboards, television and radio are designed to "put fear into bad guys," Ahern said. The campaign, with a tagline of "Illegal guns just got more illegal," is set for August.

Similar ad campaigns have worked in other big cities such as Atlanta, which launched its Face 5 program in June 1999. Buses were painted with a warning that felons could face five years in prison if caught with guns.

"The word's getting out. People are talking about it on the street," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Monahan in Atlanta.

Atlanta police and federal authorities have been identifying the "worst of the worst" criminals for prosecution on gun charges in federal court. The gun caseload tripled to about 100 cases last year in the U.S. attorney's office there.

"Police officers were getting really frustrated that they were arresting felons with handguns and so little was being done [in state court]," said Atlanta police Deputy Chief Carter B. Jackson.

This year's number of murders may dip below 100 for the first time in 30 years, which Jackson credited in part to the aggressive anti-gun program.

Philadelphia announced its own anti-gun initiative, Operation Cease Fire, in January 1999. Three assistant U.S. attorneys were assigned to handle gun cases, and firearms indictments nearly quadrupled to 225 last year.

"We look for those guys with bad prior records, the guy with the prior felony conviction with the armed robberies, but not necessarily the guy with a stolen car on his record," said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Levy.

"It is not a copy of Exile, but follows the Exile model of prosecuting cases that otherwise would go to state courts."

*** Exile doesn't excite Illinois

A proposed Illinois version of Virginia's Project Exile law received a lukewarm reception when the plan was announced earlier this month.

Four state representatives said they will introduce a bill creating a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for felons caught with guns. The current minimum is two years.

"Anything that is going to help with crime in Illinois we are completely behind," said Kirsten Curley of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. "But we don't know whether it is needed here."

One of the toughest anti-gun measures in Illinois is Gov. Ryan's "15-20-life" law, which took effect in January, Curley said.

The law mandates 15 years in prison for anyone possessing a gun in the commission of a crime, 20 years for shooting the gun and 25 years to life if someone is hit with gunfire.
Add Photos & Videos

Sort By
  • Most Raves
  • Least Raves
  • Oldest
  • Newest

  • holliday04 2009/02/23 04:10:37
    Sound like these programs are working to me . . . why in the world would anyone oppose them?
  • Wanda52... holliday04 2009/02/23 13:31:55
    Wanda5245 - Citizen Activist Who Wants Spunkysmum Back On SH
    Because they don't advocate a gun ban and taking guns away from law abiding citizens; they are for taking guns out of criminals hands and getting the criminals off the streets.

About Me

Wanda5245 - Citizen Activist Who Wants Spunkysmum Back On SH

Wanda5245 - Citizen Activist Who Wants Spunkysmum Back On SH


2008/02/22 18:21:10

AFCL - We will never forget either 9/11!

View complete profile

Hot Questions on SodaHead
More Hot Questions

More Community More Originals