ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) — One year ago, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made revitalizing Project Safe Neighborhoods "the centerpiece of the Department's violent crime reduction strategy," according to a prepared statement released Tuesday by the Department of Justice about the initiative.
“In Alaska, law enforcement agencies have a long history and tradition of working together to protect the people of the state,” said U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder at a press conference Tuesday. "Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, we are leveraging that cooperation to identify the most serious violent crime problems and offenders, then focus our operations. I am also pleased that Project Safe Neighborhoods has provided us with additional needed resources, including two new prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office here in Alaska.”
Flanked by representatives of the Alaska Department of Law, Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Schroder used two high-profile cases that both culminated in September to illustrate the initiative's success.
The first involved five individuals — four men and one woman — who are under federal indictment for their respective roles in a violent meth and heroin distribution conspiracy, during which a man was brutally beaten and left for dead in a dog kennel. The State of Alaska was able to bring attempted murder and other charges against the defendants, while the federal government was able to charge kidnapping, which carries up to a life sentence, and other crimes, connected to the alleged conspiracy.
The second case highlighted was that of the rape and murder of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr in September. Her accused killer, Peter Wilson, was first arrested under federal charges for lying to an FBI child exploitation task force agent, then later, charged by the state for the girl's murder.
Other enforcement successes included the sentencing of two carjackers, one for life, and bringing charges against two men accused of violent robberies.
In federal court, especially with drug and gun crimes, defendants often face substantial mandatory minimum sentences.
Other aspects of Project Safe Neighborhoods include opioid abuse education for school students and churches, and partnering to build Naloxone kits to help prevent fatal opioid overdoses.