DETROIT (AP) — Federal authorities and local officials in Detroit put felons on notice Monday that even getting caught with a gun could mean an extended stay in prison.
An initiative aimed at reducing gun violence was announced by U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and Mayor Mike Duggan and includes a public awareness campaign highlighting stiffer federal penalties for gun possession.
While overall crime continues to drop in the city, between 1,400 and 1,600 fatal and non-fatal shootings have occurred each of the past three years in Detroit.
Other agencies in the anti-gun campaign include the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and Michigan State Police. Such partnerships bring additional help to Detroit, which has to keep a tight rein on spending after emerging in December from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
“What we’re saying is, we may not have the resources to get everybody right now, but we do have the resources to go after everybody who chooses to use a gun,” Duggan told reporters. “We know one initiative and one announcement isn’t going to solve it, but every month that goes by we are going to make it more and more difficult to get away with a crime using a gun. And we’re going to make it much more unpleasant when you are arrested.”
Under Michigan law, being a felon in possession of a firearm carries 5 years in prison upon conviction.
“In the federal system, we do have the ability to get some very lengthy sentences in certain kinds of cases,” McQuade said.
A felon with at least one violent crime conviction who is caught with a gun faces federal prosecution, she added.
Felons who are caught with guns and have three prior violent convictions face at least 15 years in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for a second offense by a felon using a gun during a violent crime is 25 years.
Federal officials have been working with police in Detroit over the past several years under the Detroit One partnership to reduce crime.
Project 48205 — named after a ZIP code on Detroit’s east side — was announced in 2011 by McQuade. Federal agents in that effort were to look at gun-related crime in those neighborhoods that could be prosecuted in federal courts to get more convictions.
A similar campaign aimed at people using guns in vehicle thefts also is credited with helping reduce carjackings by 32 percent last year.
Money from the Justice Department is paying for the two federal prosecutors who will purse the gun cases in the initiative announced Monday. Crime Stoppers will pay for two billboards and public service announcements.
“Deterring even one felon from possessing a gun might save the life of a daughter, a son, a mother or a father,” said John Broad, Crime Stoppers of Michigan president. “We hear too many stories about kind-hearted, talented, hardworking people with bright futures whose lives have been cut short.”
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