U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom commended the work of local law enforcement Wednesday after a Partners for Justice training event with officers in Dodge City
The training session was one of 36 events in 25 communities that Grissom's Kansas district office has held since 2006, said Jim Cross, the office’s information director.
At the events, Grissom covers a variety of topics including gang violence, human trafficking, internet crimes against children, officer safety and survival, seizure of drugs, and endangered children. Tackling these issues requires a dedicated police force.
“Every day, law enforcement officers risk their lives to protect America’s citizens and our communities,” he said. “The work requires great skill and extraordinary courage.”
The efforts of local officers are vital to the office’s ability to successfully prosecute violations of federal law. “Without them, we are just empty suits,” Grissom said.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is committed to supporting local and state law enforcement officers in every way it can. “My door is always open,” he added.
Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s office has had a heavy and growing case load. According to Grissom, the total number of criminal filings that the office made in 2012 increased by 14 percent. The prior year there was a 19 percent increase in filings.
“The statistics show that we are doing more with less,” he said.
Budget cuts and the effects of sequestration will have an effect on the types of cases that the office can prosecute.
“We are down six lawyers right now.”
The cuts have also kept the office from hiring the support staff that it needs.
The U.S. Attorney’s office actually takes in more money than it spends, Grissom said. It acquires approximately $15 million per year by selling assets that are seized from convicted criminals. However, the money has to be turned in to the U.S. Treasury.
Among the office’s local accomplishments is the successful dismantling of the Norteño street gang. Twenty-three gang members of were indicted after a mass round-up in 2012. “We have 13 of them that have pled guilty,” Grissom said.
Two additional trials involving murders that are alleged to have been committed by members of the gang are set to begin later this year.
The arrests have made the community safer as a whole, Grissom said.
Cross, the information director, added, “The gang case has yielded very positive results that make the community safer.”
Grissom cautioned that officers and prosecutors should not slow down in their efforts to clean-up the streets.
Page 2 of 2 - “You can’t take your foot off the gas.”
The prosecution of the gang members has been aided by local law enforcement agencies’ efforts to reach out to minorities and assure them that they can trust police. In reference to the fear that undocumented immigrant victims often have of being deported, Grissom said, “We are not here to round people [undocumented immigrants] up.” He added that the Dodge City Police Department and the Fore County Sherriff’s office have also made similar statements.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has also made a point of prosecuting federal gun crimes. In fiscal year 2012, it filed 291 criminal firearms cases, according to the office’s statistics. The number of cases is a 4 percent increase over the number from the previous year.
Grissom’s office has asked local law enforcement agencies to bring it cases involving repeat offenders and convicted felons that are illegally in possession of firearms. Alleged criminals that are prosecuted in federal court can receive much stiffer sentences than those imposed by state courts. Federal prosecutors are able to secure sentences of five to ten years or more, depending on the criminal history of the convicted person and the circumstances of the crimes, he said.
The success that the U.S. Attorney’s office has had in prosecuting federal crimes can be attributed to the work of local and state law enforcement officers. “They are soldiers in a constant combat zone and they are true professionals,” Grissom said.