A Cincinnati project aimed at taking violent gun offenders off the streets for as long as possible is being praised for its results, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. Cincinnati’s Hamilton County got involved in Project DisArm in 2005. The project, part of a partnership between the federal and local governments called Project Safe Neighborhoods, allows local authorities to refer gun cases for federal prosecution if the cases involve criminals with long violent records. Federal sentences can be much longer than state sentences. In state court a gun charge is punishable by 18 months to 5 years, but people rarely serve more than 18 months. In federal court, the minimum sentence is five years. The project has been criticized by defense attorneys as leading to unreasonably long sentences.
Typical defendants are violent felons who prosecutors believe are responsible for much crime and violence – the “worst of the worst,” as commissioners David Pepper and Greg Hartmann put it. Forty-seven defendants were convicted last year in Project DisArm, up from 33 the previous year. The average sentence was just over seven years. The possibility of such substantial jail time also led to valuable tips on homicides and gang activity. Those tips helped dismantle violent street gangs in Cincinnati and helped solve more than 31 homicides.