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Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative Will Seek to Reduce Violent Crime in Gulfport and Harrison County

Gulfport, Miss. – Today, Mike Hurst, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, along with Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, Gulfport Police Chief Chris Ryle, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Kurt Theilhorn, Drug Enforcement Administration Resident Agent in Charge Chris Daniels, and other law enforcement agencies, announced the expansion of an initiative to combat violent crime called “Project EJECT” into the City of Gulfport.

Launched by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi in December 2017 in the City of Jackson under the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (“PSN”) initiative, Project EJECT is an enhanced violent crime reduction program that incorporates decades of experience in bringing various levels of law enforcement together with stakeholders in the community, with the overall goal of producing a long-term, meaningful reduction in and prevention of violent crime. Project EJECT stands for: “Empower Justice Expel Crime Together.”

Joined by law enforcement at the Gulfport Police Department, U.S. Attorney Hurst described the project as a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach that combines law enforcement arrests and prosecutions of violent criminals with prevention efforts, rehabilitation and reentry, educational initiatives, and improved communication.

“Project EJECT has been incredibly successful in every city where it has been deployed, and we are excited to partner with Gulfport to make this great city even safer. Through close collaboration among our federal and local prosecutors, prevention efforts for our young people, reentry services for recently-released offenders, and input from the community, we will be able to effectively prevent and reduce violent crime throughout our neighborhoods. The overarching goal is to make the City of Gulfport safer for everyone,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.

“The key to having a safe city is strong partnerships. The City of Gulfport has a top-notch police force. Collaboration can only help strengthen our community policing efforts. We look forward to working with U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst’s office,” said Mayor Billy Hewes

“As violent crimes have increased within our community, I am committed to utilize every available resource to address this issue.  It is with great pleasure that the Gulfport Police Department is able to partner with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to bring the quality of life to our citizens which they so deserve, “ said Chris Ryle, Gulfport Chief of Police.

“ATF is proud to be a partner in Project EJECT.  We have had success investigating armed violent offenders in other cities with Project EJECT, and will continue to do so in Gulfport,” said ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn. “ATF remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to remove the most violent criminals from our communities.”

“The men and women of DEA are proud to join with the US Attorney’s Office, the ATF and the Gulfport Police Department to make Project EJECT as successful in Gulfport, as it has been in multiple cities across Mississippi,” said Kevin J. Gaddy, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the State of Mississippi.

The mission of PROJECT EJECT is to reduce violent crime and make Gulfport neighborhoods safer for all to enjoy.  Part of the project will include discussions with the public and encouraging communities to help law enforcement in this effort, as well as communicating to the criminals that they will be prosecuted and punished for gun crimes and violent crimes.  The Project will also seek to support locally-based efforts to stop violence and crimes before they occur and to help those whom have been punished to reenter society as law-abiding citizens.

Project EJECT is comprised of a number of federal law enforcement agencies, as well as task force officers from various state and local investigative agencies, who will interact regularly with the Gulfport Police Department and District Attorney’s Offices to identity and respond to violent crimes when they occur.  Cases arising from these crimes will then be presented to the local District Attorney’s Offices and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution. 

For the first time ever, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is specifically dedicating two Assistant United States Attorneys to prosecute violent crime in the City of Gulfport under this project.

Project EJECT follows a directive from former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the U.S. Department of Justice to reinvigorate DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods with the intent to reduce the rising tide of violent crime in America.  Project EJECT is the Southern District of Mississippi’s PSN initiative specifically tailored to address violent crime in throughout the district.

In December 2018, at the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) National Conference, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker presented the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and its law enforcement partners with the award for Outstanding Overall Partnership/Task Force for Project EJECT.  Only 16 awards were given during the annual PSN National Conference, which recognize individuals and groups for their dedication and contribution to the success of PSN.  Project EJECT was one of only two recognized as the best partnerships or task forces in the nation.

In expanding Project EJECT into Gulfport, the U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to lead the Project, with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erica Rose and Jonathan Buckner in Gulfport serving as the primary prosecutors for violent cases under Project EJECT in Gulfport, long-time Assistant U.S. Attorney John Merynardie in Gulfport serving as a senior advisor and prosecutor, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Wansley in Jackson serving as the Project Safe Neighborhoods Coordinator for the entire Southern District of Mississippi.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is an initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice to bring together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.

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