New program brings federal bite to gun crimes -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New program brings federal bite to gun crimes

Albany-- Federal prosecutors say most gun crimes are committed by people who should not have them.

U. S. Attorney Maxwell Wood said "Project Safe Neighborhoods takes that task force approach, and localizes it to focus on gun crimes."

The idea is to put criminals who use guns behind bars for a longer time with tougher federal sentences.

Dougherty D. A. Ken Hodges said, "We do have a problem, and we are going to be serious about it."

U. S. Attorney Wood joined with State District Attorneys, sheriffs and police from six Southwest Georgia counties. They will network to get criminals with guns off the streets.

South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mulholland said, "That's the whole point of this, to get hard time for hard crime."

Federal gun laws put a criminal behind bars for at least 15 years. Southwest Georgia law enforcers will use a public relations campaign to tell criminals that if they use a gun, they will face at least that long behind bars.

Wood said "If you can just get guns out of the hands of people who aren't legally in possession of them, that alone could eliminate theoretically a quarter of the murders across the country."

Richmond Virginia had one of the highest murder rates in the nation in 1997. Authorities say state, federal, and local law enforcement working together in a Project Safe Neighborhoods test program cut their homicide rate 48 percent.

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