Poet John Donne wrote, "No man is an island." His words provide wise guidance on how law enforcement can effectively combat violent crime.
In the days of TV sheriff Andy Taylor on the old "Andy Griffith Show," the assaultive behavior of a neighborhood offender suffering from anger-management issues was the extent of violent crime. Today, the menu of violent crime has expanded and combatting it requires an integrated law enforcement approach.
Law enforcement now has to contend with organized violent gangs, terrorist cells, and illicit trafficking organizations with vast geographic reach. These violent criminals don't limit their destructive acts to one block or one neighborhood. The days of the Westside Story gangs rumbling over turf are long gone. Now, gangs are violent criminal enterprises who commit interstate and international violence.
On the violent crime chess board, law enforcement task forces defeat bad guys. When law enforcement combines its resources in a multi-agency task force that targets violent crime, the results are impressive.
Just reading some news headlines from August proves this point. In Texas, a Department of Justice headline read, "32 Individuals Charged In Violent Crimes Cases." Another headline from New York announced, "31 Members and Associates of Two Rival Poughkeepsie Street Gangs Charged With Murder, Attempted Murder, Racketeering, Narcotics and Firearms Offenses." In Ohio and Indiana, a Fox News headline revealed, "13 Accused MS-13 Gang Members Arrested."
What these headlines have in common is that local, state, and federal law enforcement assets combined to arrest violent criminals. Looking at the Texas takedown, the multiple arrests were the result of the following departments working together: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Jasper County Sheriff's Office, Orange Police Department, Port Arthur Police Department, Beaumont Police Department, the DEA, the FBI, and the ATF. When law enforcement synchronizes its efforts in the pursuit of violent criminals, the bad guys lose and communities win.
In the Poughkeepsie arrests, we also saw different law enforcement assets combine their resources in a task force to target two violent gangs. New York State Superintendent George P. Beach made the following powerful statement: "This investigation is another example of our law enforcement partners working collaboratively to put an end to the dangerous gang activity that brings violence and crime into our neighborhoods. I commend all of our law enforcement partners for their hard work in dismantling these gangs and for their commitment to making our neighborhoods safer. We have no tolerance for those who bring drugs and the threat of violence to our communities."
Such law enforcement efforts make the American taxpayers smile and keep our communities and our citizens safe. Whether it's the FBI Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force, the Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force, or any other ICE, ATF, or DEA violent crimes task force, the end results are the same, safer communities.
The collective efforts of all contributing law enforcement departments make these task forces extremely effective. Looking at the three headlines mentioned, we see the following category of charges brought against multiple alleged violent criminals: murder, racketeering, money laundering, extortion, armed robbery impacting interstate commerce (Hobbs Act), narcotics trafficking, and felons in possession of illegal firearms. All these charges come with a significant sentencing impact.
Some critics may argue that the task force approach just fills jails, and we can't arrest our way out of the problem. I strongly disagree. Looking at the rampant violent crime that has plagued neighborhoods in Chicago and Baltimore, we see that the respective mayors have not effectively dealt with the problem. Setting aside the politics, it is clear that a sustained full-court law enforcement press targeting violent criminals makes communities safer.
Today's organized violent criminals are not isolated local problems. They engage in interstate and/or international trafficking, terrorism, and money laundering, and use social media and technology to further their objectives. No single agency can effectively eradicate violent crime.
No law enforcement department or agency is an island. By working together we advance our priority objective: making America safer.
Jon Adler is president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association Foundation.