District named most improved in nation by Project Safe

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Those interested in finding one of the best districts in Alabama need not look far.

At the national conference on Project Safe Neighborhoods held in Philadelphia, the southern district of Alabama received a national award for being the most improved district involved in the project.

District Attorney Ed Greene, who attended the three day conference last week, said that the award cited the cooperative efforts of the district attorneys’ offices in Selma and Escambia, the Mobile Police Department and the United States Attorney’s office among others.

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Greene said that he was impressed by the award because more than 90 districts were in the running for it.

The purpose of the conference was to focus on Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program designed to &uot;break the cycle&uot; of gun violence by identifying and prosecuting people who violate federal gun laws and removing them from local communities.

The project also seeks to educate people involved in the cycle of gun violence about the punishments they can receive and reasons why they shouldn’t carry and possess weapons.

Greene said one individual at the conference summed up the project’s purpose well.

Greene’s office joined the program early on, and has now been involved in it for a little under a year. Two prosecutors from the office, Mickey Avery and Joseph Fitzpatrick, have been assigned to the project and work with law enforcement agencies to review and prepare cases for federal prosecution or determine if they should be sent to state court.

The program is expected to expand in the next few months, Greene said, and will begin to involve those in the community. Meetings will be held and discussion on how gun crime can be avoided will be one focus of the gatherings.

An advertisement campaign will also start soon to educate people in the community through billboards and speaking programs.

A task force with the program that involves federal and state prosecutors, probation and parole officers along with others meets every month, Greene said.

At the next meeting in February a statistician will meet with the group and take a look at some numbers concerning gun violence, see what progress is being made and help with the decision of where to go from this point.