The United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Norwalk Police Department today announced an enhanced law enforcement effort targeting individuals who illegally possess and use firearms in Norwalk.
The new partnership utilizes the model developed through the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence and promoting safe communities. Since 2001, PSN has been established in cities across the country, including several in Connecticut, and has been a successful vehicle for prosecuting serious and persistent offenders who possess firearms. Through PSN, investigative task forces comprising federal and local law enforcement officers respond to each incident that involves the seizure of a firearm. State and federal prosecutors then work together to determine the appropriate forum for prosecution of a defendant.
"This new initiative will enhance our existing relationship in order to ensure that Norwalk’s most persistent and dangerous offenders who illegally possess and use guns are removed from the community for a long period of time," stated U.S. Attorney David B. Fein.
"As the federal agency whose mission is to fight violent crime, ATF is focused on combining efforts with our law enforcement partners and using every tool available in getting dangerous criminals off our streets and keeping our communities safe," stated Guy N. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Boston Field Division.
"I’m delighted that we have been chosen to participate in this program," stated Norwalk Police Chief Thomas E. Kulhawik. "We have always enjoyed an excellent working relationship with our federal partners, and this designation as a Project Safe Neighborhood city will greatly enhance that partnership. This new collaboration will allow us to provide an even greater level of law enforcement service to the Norwalk community."
Assistant United States Attorney Vanessa Richards has been assigned as the Office’s liaison for Project Safe Neighborhoods in Norwalk. In addition, a Norwalk Police officer has been assigned to the ATF as a full–time ATF task force officer. AUSA Richards, Assistant State’s Attorney Suzanne Vieux, the ATF task force officer and others will meet once a month to review all arrests in Norwalk during which a firearm was seized. The team will then determine whether the appropriate forum for prosecution is in state or federal court. Defendants with lengthy criminal records are subject to prosecution in federal court, where penalties related to the use, possession and or sale or a firearm are often more severe.
Federal and state prosecutors also will work with the officers and agents on the task force to conduct regular training sessions with the Norwalk Police Department to discuss relevant issues in gun and gang investigations. Also, prosecutors will coordinate with adult probation and parole offices in Norwalk and Stamford to conduct meetings with offenders to explain federal firearms laws and penalties. The offender meetings aim not only to deter gun possession and other crimes by offenders, but also to spread the message that federal law enforcement is taking a more active role in the city of Norwalk.