U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told law-enforcement officials from across western Virginia yesterday that more work needs to be done to cut the criminal use of guns in neighborhoods, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We have a problem, no doubt about it,” he said. “Where you have drugs, you often have guns, and where you have guns, you often have gangs.”
The federal government has pumped about $4 million in grants into western Virginia in the past five years as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, an effort that targets guns. In Roanoke, the police department used a $100,000 project grant to beef up citywide bicycle patrols. In Lynchburg, an identical grant was used to buy a vehicle for the city’s anti-drug DARE program. A key component of Project Safe Neighborhoods is the increased prosecution of gun crimes in federal court instead of state courts. Between 1996 and 2000, the U.S. Attorney for Western Virginia averaged 87 gun prosecutions a year; since 2001, when the project began, the office has averaged 193 gun prosecutions a year.