Federal Authorities Issue Updates on “Project Safe Neighborhoods”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently issued an update on its PSN program (Project Safe Neighborhoods). PSN is, according to the government, an evidence-based program that has been proven effective against violent crime. 

PSN is a collection of strategies that brings together state, local, and federal law enforcement to target the worst criminals and violent crime. While this language is fairly opaque, the undertone is gangs. The initiative seeks to hold organized crime accountable for the numerous deaths it causes each year. 

While authorities say that there has been progress, they also admit that the “number of violent crimes in Chicago remains stubbornly high.” Chicago remains a major target for federal authorities whose focus remains on weapons trafficking and drug trafficking. Several federal agencies are partnering with Cook County law enforcement to help better bring violent criminals to justice.

So, What are They Actually Doing?

It may not necessarily be obvious from official correspondence, but federal authorities are targeting Black and brown neighborhoods for weapons offenses. Of course, they cannot say “we are targeting Black and brown neighborhoods,” so instead, they say that they are targeting “high crime” neighborhoods. Nonetheless, there is a one to one correspondence between so-called “high crime” neighborhoods and neighborhoods that are primarily populated by Black and brown residents. 

Much of what federal authorities are touting as an improvement or basic law enforcement interventions is the speed at which they can investigate and prosecute cases. As a criminal defense attorney who understands that the FBI simply invents sciences to “prove” cases to rube jurors, I am rather suspicious of quickly hustling defendants through the system and depriving them of their civil rights simply because they live in “high crime” neighborhoods. 

Part of the problem is the FBI’s reliance on NIBIN, a ballistic database that supposedly can capture and compare ballistic evidence. The technology is based on a misused scientific principle that individual guns leave specific marks on bullet casings that can be traced directly back to them. While there may be some merit in that theory, for it to be testable, the gun must be able to leave identical marks in every bullet it fires. If it cannot, then the theory is not testable and the evidence is not usable, but that sure did not stop the FBI from using it to convict suspects.


Most of the prosecutions emerging from PSN do not involve ballistics. In fact, the majority were arrested via sting operations with guns in hand during trafficking and sale. Some were caught straw-buying guns for sale on Chicago streets while others sold switch mechanisms that could turn a handgun fully automatic. None of these prosecutions required the examination of bullet casings.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

With all the federal activity happening in Chicago right now, prosecutions are at an all-time high. If you get caught in the middle of one, call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 and allow us to begin building your defense today.

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