VOL. 127 | NO. 174 | Thursday, September 06, 2012
District, US Attorneys Pooling Efforts
By Bill Dries
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton are working together on cases that cross the state-federal boundary for prosecution.
And the collaboration includes several assistant county prosecutors who work in the U.S. Attorney’s office as special assistant U.S. attorneys.
Weirich and Stanton commented on the WKNO TV program “Behind The Headlines,” which is available at The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com.
The joint efforts continue with the recently announced Multi-Agency Gang Unit.
Together with police and Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies as well as agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the unit will use some new tactics.
Those tactics include declaring areas of high gang activity as gang zones where certain gang behavior is prohibited. Weirich compares it to the nuisance court actions her office has taken against owners of businesses, nightclubs and apartment complexes as well as other properties where there is a lot of crime.
“One of the many goals we have is to use that a little more effectively and do just that – clean up pockets of the community where people are sick and tired of gang members terrorizing them and taking it over,” Weirich said.
“Gun crimes are looked at every week. ... We’re looking for the worst of the worst.”
Stanton said federal involvement means the ability to couple that kind of action with federal cases that go after the gangs as crime organizations.
“We can take down those kinds of enterprises,” he said. “I think that’s going to make a tremendous difference.”
Stanton’s office has made a priority of pursuing adults involved in sex trafficking of minors often brought to Memphis and the surrounding area by force. Stanton likens the crime to modern day slavery and his office has sought and drawn long sentences for those convicted in the last year.
“West Tennessee has the dubious distinction of being one of the leaders in the country,” he said. “We’re in the top two or three in terms of prosecuting these crimes. … It’s in the inner city. It’s in suburbia. We’ve seen it in the rural areas.”
Prosecutors from his office and Weirich’s office meet on a weekly basis to determine which cases of felons allegedly caught with guns will be pursued in federal court. The felons with guns cases are a major part of the federal court caseload.
“Gun crimes are looked at every week. We determine which of the bad actors are involved. We’re looking for the worst of the worst,” Stanton said. “Literally every case is reviewed … on a weekly basis. … It’s a combination of approaches we are taking to deal with the problem.”
Both offices are also working more with teenagers and young adults to prevent them from becoming defendants in federal and state criminal cases.
Weirich said that also involves prosecuting parents for truancy when their children aren’t attending school.
“I know as a 21-year prosecutor that truancy is a gateway crime,” she said.