HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A new joint task force is setting its sights on Huntsville’s most violent criminals.
The Huntsville Public Safety Task Force is a partnership between local state and federal agencies and the team has gone to work, targeting the most violent criminals and repeat offenders.
"It really is a collaboration of every law enforcement agency that is operating in the Northern district of Alabama. We identify who the worst offenders are in the Huntsville Metropolitan area, and then we go and put cases on them. We investigate them, we prosecute them in the forum where the sanction is the greatest and oftentimes, that's the federal court," said Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
The task force held its inaugural meeting this week at the Huntsville Police Department.
"We want to find our repeat felon offenders, the most violent offenders in Huntsville, and tracking their criminal activities in our city and using the U.S. Attorney's Office, who is lead on this task force, to prosecute them. When it comes to the federal system, most offenders will serve about 85% of their sentences so that's what we want to do is funnel those offenders through the federal system," explained Lt. Michael Johnson, HPD's spokesman.
The task force incorporates principles of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) which is the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction strategy.
"The various agencies will partner together and figure out ways to investigate those worst offenders that we've identifief. We have a top ten list. That is a list that's law enforcement sensitive but we use that information- who those individuals are running with, where they live, where they frequent. We can then observe and investigate them and eventually prosecute them for what we all know they are doing routinely. They are menaces to the Huntsville community," Town stated.
Joining Town and HPD Chief Mark McMurray on the task force are representatives of the Mayor’s Office, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County District Attorney’s Office, Madison Police Department, Decatur Police Department, Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, Huntsville Housing Authority, and the federal law enforcement agencies FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and Homeland Security Investigations.
"It provides a platform for all levels of law enforcement to share crime intelligence and crime strategies so we can collectively go after the worst offenders in the Huntsville metropolitan area," Town said.
The task force will continue to meet each month. In the meantime, the agencies will be working together to build cases and prosecute them in federal court.
“It’s important because in the past, some of these offenders have gotten a little bit too much grace from the state system so we want to send a message that the U.S. attorney’s office and the Huntsville police department are going to be tracking your criminal activity if you’re a repeat violent offender and we are right now preparing a federal prison bed for you,” Lt. Johnson added.
Each agency will have an operational expectation unique to their department with the collective goal of producing useful intelligence on the worst criminal elements so that investigations can yield successful prosecutions in the jurisdiction where the punishment is the most significant.
PSN is a nationwide Department of Justice program committed to reducing violent crime by networking law enforcement agencies. PSN also provides funding to local and state agencies to assist them with departmental or agency operational needs. United States Attorney Town is the lone U.S. Attorney on the national Violent Crimes Reduction Coordinating Committee, which oversees the PSN program.
“This stems out of the reboot of Project Safe Neighborhoods and the leadership that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has shown this country. It is a top tier priority to focus on the worst offenders among us, the alpha criminals. That’s typically your violent offenders, but it’s also your drug dealers and those who are repeat offenders. It can also be someone who has no criminal record whatsoever but we absolutely know through law enforcement intelligence that this individual is engaged in the worst behaviors,” Town said. “We need to remove those people from our neighborhoods, from our streets so we can return our communities back to our law abiding citizens.”