Project Safe Neighborhoods program is fighting violent crime in NELA

NELA, (KNOE) - Federal agencies and local law enforcement are coming together to keep violent criminals out of neighborhoods in Northeast Louisiana through the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.

Republican state Rep. Steve Hurst introduced the bill, which is known as HB 379. Hurst said convicted pedophiles "have marked this child for life and the punishment should fit the crime." (Photo: Pxhere)

The U.S. Attorney's office says they started the Project Safe Neighborhoods program last year. David Joseph, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, says they’ve prosecuted over 80 criminals in the Monroe area in the first year of the program.

He says most of the crime in Northeast Louisiana is located in the Monroe and Bastrop areas.

Joseph says the program brings together agencies like the ATF, DEA, FBI and local and state law enforcement. He says they meet monthly to talk about areas in Northeast Louisiana with the highest crime rates and how to target violent criminals.

Joseph says the program has kept offenders off the streets that otherwise might still be involved in violent crimes. He says that’s because offenders don’t have the option of parole when they go to court on federal charges.

"That sentence is how long they stay in jail subject to some time they might accrue but basically the sentence is what the judge says it is so there's not an opportunity to get out early,” says Joseph. “And what that does is bring certainty to the process for both the person that's being prosecuted and the community that's finally free of the person who's been a menace in their neighborhood."

He says studies show the amount of federal involvement in local crime really deters violent offenders.

Joseph says talking to the youth is a big part of what they do as well. He says keeping these violent offenders off the streets means they can't be a negative influence on kids in these neighborhoods.

"Our goal is not to put as many people in prison as we can,” says Joseph. “Our goal is to reduce violent crime, that's it, so we do that mainly through identifying and targeting the people that are causing the biggest problems but also through outreach."

Joseph says they're planning to put out a public service announcement to show the community that violent crime isn't the way to go.