July 8, 2021
U.S. ATTORNEY, LEADERS OF FEDERAL AGENCIES ANNOUNCE TASK FORCE CREATION IN ROCHESTER TO COMBAT VIOLENT GUN CRIMES
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced yesterday the creation of a federal task force to address the recent dramatic increase in gun violence in the City of Rochester. The Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Response (VIPER) Task Force will include federal law enforcement officers, federal analysts, and federal prosecutors, who will work with state, county, and local law enforcers, analysts, and prosecutors to enhance public safety and reduce violent crime by removing violent gun offenders from our streets and targeting those who provide guns to those who use them to commit crimes.
In addition to the United States Attorney’s Office, members of the Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Response Task Force include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge John B. Devito, New York Field Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the United States Marshals Service, under the direction of Marshal Charles Salina; Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Ray Donovan, New York Field Division, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley, the Rochester Police Department, under the direction of Chief Cynthis Herriott-Sullivan, and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter.
The task force, which will run initially for 60 days, will focus on these key areas:
• Enhanced Information Sharing: Task force members will work with state, county, and local law enforcement partners to review gun arrests daily. During these reviews, a determination will be made whether a defendant will face state prosecution, federal prosecution, or dual prosecution by both state and federal authorities. The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office will consider designating Assistant District Attorneys to serve as federal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys enabling them to prosecute cases in both state and federal court.
• Enhanced Proactive Investigations and Prosecutions: Task force members will work collaboratively to identify those individuals who pose the greatest risk to public safety and to take appropriate efforts to disrupt any violence before it occurs. These efforts will include analysis of recent shootings, gun possession crimes, regional crime data, and targeting of the worst offenders, criminal groups, hotspots, and locations experiencing increased rates of gun crime. Task force members will utilize the ATF’s crime gun intelligence network, the United States Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force, and the Monroe Crime Analysis Center (MCAC).
• Enhanced Use of Federal Prosecutions: Recognizing some of the challenges facing state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, the task force will prioritize federal prosecutions of prohibited individuals who possess firearms and ammunition, including felons, individuals under indictment, individuals who are subject to a valid order of protection, fugitives, individuals using illegal narcotics, people who have been adjudicated to be mentally defective, individuals who unlawfully or attempt to buy, sell, or traffic guns, and violent criminals and drug dealers who illegally possess firearms in furtherance of their unlawful activities.
• Law Enforcement’s Role as Community Protectors: The task force is designed to target significant law breakers, not everyday citizens going about their business. The task force seeks to restore the public’s faith in law enforcement by reinforcing the notion that their essential role is to protect the public.
• Enhanced Federal Prosecutions to Restore Community and Law Enforcement Relations: Community members are unlikely to cooperate with law enforcement and to assist in identifying and bringing to justice violent offenders if they believe that such criminals are going to be out on the street the next day or if they fear retribution because state law requires early disclosure of witness identities. A federal prosecution will enhance the ability of all levels of law enforcement to remove violent offenders from the streets and protect those who seek to promote public safety in the communities in which they live and work. Those efforts will also help to improve the strained relationship and restore trust between the community and law enforcement, increasing empathy on both sides.
“All citizens—especially those living in our most violent neighborhoods—are entitled to feel safe in their own home and neighborhoods,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Law abiding citizens should not be forced to live behind bars, while criminals are given freedom to roam the streets. The Federal Violence Prevention and Elimination Response Task Force is designed to remove the worst of the worst who hold our streets and neighborhoods hostage. The task force also seeks to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and community members. The time has come for everyone to stop thinking of ‘us versus them’ as the community versus the cops—and to start thinking of ‘us versus them’ as the community and the cops versus violent offenders.”