Profile No. 40

U.S. Attorney's Office Initiatives -- Rochester, NY

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Focused prosecution strategies.

Program Goal:
To reduce the illegal possession, use, sale, and trade of firearms by juveniles and adults.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
High-risk youth, gang members, and criminals who use guns.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Rochester, NY.

Evaluated by:
Internal data collection.

Contact Information:
Bradley Tyler, Assistant U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
620 Keating Federal Building
Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: 716­263­5717

Chief Robert Duffy
Rochester Police Department
150 Plymouth Avenue
South Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: 716­428­7033

Years of Operation:

In 1993, the Attorney General requested that all U.S. Attorneys in each district prepare a crime plan that would address gun violence and related crimes in their local areas. As a result of this mandate, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York teamed up with several Federal, State, and local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to form the Violent Crimes Task Force (VCTF). The local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency for VCTF. The mission of the task force is to respond to and investigate violent crimes. The group sets its priorities in response to current crime trends.

VCTF endeavors to reduce crime by current and former youth offenders through a carrot-and-stick approach. Youth are encouraged to take advantage of social services so they can avoid criminal behavior, they are warned of the consequences of further criminal behavior, and they are closely monitored by parole and probation officers in the postincarceration period.

In 1997, VCTF created an Illegal Firearms Suppression Unit (sometimes referred to as the Gun Squad), under the leadership of the Rochester Police Department. The unit's mission is to reduce the illegal sale and trade of firearms, using prosecutorial discretion to try cases through either the U.S. Attorney's Office (which has mandatory jail terms with no parole and uses out-of-State prisons) or the District Attorney's Office. This initiative is funded by grants from the Carnegie Mellon Foundation and the U.S. Department of Justice in partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York; Monroe County District Attorney; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Monroe County Sheriff's Department; New York State Police; and Rochester Police Department. Although there is no formal governing board, these agencies have established a collegial working relationship over the years, and launch multiagency initiatives when needed.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is the lead agency for both VCTF and the Suppression Unit, and works closely with a local prosecutor to find the judicial forum that will have the biggest impact. There are three prosecutory options available in New York. First, a case may be kept in a State court because the penalties available are at least equal to those that would apply in a Federal case. Second, the U.S. Attorney and the District Attorney may agree to forward the case to Federal court for prosecution. Third, the U.S. Attorney may request a waiver that would allow a defendant to be tried in both Federal and State courts. The U.S. Attorney's Office may prosecute crimes by juveniles as young as 13 years old in Federal court.

The program has not been formally evaluated, but in house data show that the Illegal Firearms Suppression Unit has been involved in three major prosecutions of cross-State gun-purchasing activities and currently has 30 to 40 open single-defendant felony gun cases.

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