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Efforts to get Guns off Streets

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The U-S Attorney's office in Buffalo continues efforts to try and get guns off City streets.

There are two federal programs implemented in Buffalo that are aimed at gun violence. Terrance Flynn, U-S Attorney for the Western District says one of those programs is Project Exile. The Justice Department started Project Exile in 1997. It is designed to reduce gun violence.

But Flynn says since he began his new post this past spring, Project Exile has been stepped up locally. The program is in Buffalo, Niagara County, Jamestown and Rochester, all covered under the Western district. Flynn says members of local law enforcement and area district attorneys meet weekly to examine gun violations.

"And then based upon the arrest, we determine if there is other infractions. Did they have prior records, is there a narcotics element? Then were determine, along with the District Attorney's office. what is the more appropriate form to get the strongest sentence for that fire arm and gun violation. We come to that agreement, then we decided who will prosecute the case. So we hold a weekly meeting and determine proper court to prosecute, that is Project Exile" Flynn said.

But Flynn says they have now "leaped" that program into a second level, called Project Safe Neighborhood. That is a federal program initiated by U-S Attorney Alberto Gonzales. Flynn says under this program, law enforcement works to identify potential gang members in the City.

"If they are, then we evaluate it from a gang element. That increases the potential prosecution. And an interesting thing the public doesn't know, is we always look at the asset forfeiture element. We always get the guns back, and we try to recover the money utilized in sale of guns and drugs, or if they used homes or cars to do that. All that money comes back to the federal government, Flynn said.

This brings all levels of law enforcement together in order to best prosecute these cases. Flynn says the programs should send a strong messages to criminals caught with an illegal gun and drugs. He says the District Attorney, U-S Attorney or in some situations both, will end up prosecuting the case.