Local police getting more federal support to handle repeat offenders
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An old initiative is getting new life and giving local police departments a federal boost.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a joint effort, giving county agencies the opportunity to work with various federal law enforcement agencies.
That helps because federal laws often come with mandatory minimum sentences, eliminating the 'revolving door' police often complain about when it comes to career criminals.
"What's the best bang for our buck? Who's going to get the best sentencing for this person and get them off the road and keep them off the road," says Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, who says shes excited that the feds want to work together.
"They're just chomping at the bit to get cases from us," Ballard said.
PSN started in 2001 but funding dropped in recent years.
The Justice Department announced late last year that it is a priority again. PSN targets gangs, guns, drugs and repeat offenders.
"Project Safe Neighborhoods is being reinvigorated," said Kenji Price, United States Attorney for the Hawaii district. "A lot of energy and resources are being put back in Project Safe Neighborhoods both in Hawaii and elsewhere."
An example of how the partnership works, the case against Wayne Okagbue, the man who robbed multiple business in Central Oahu in a 2016 crime spree.
Honolulu Police arrested him, but then handed him over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for prosecution.
Last September, Okagbue pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act violations, a federal gun law.
He is currently serving 40 months in a federal prison.
Isaiah McCoy is another example of how the program can work. The former death row inmate was arrested by HPD for warrants last year.
Homeland Security started investigating alleged pimping and Human Trafficking violations and then took over the case.
McCoy is currently at the Federal Detention Center awaiting trial.
HPD has also turned over recent bank robbery suspects to the FBI.
Ballard says the federal agencies have more resources and farther reach.
"It's frustrating for us," Ballard said. "It's frustrating for the community, the people who do all these bad crimes and a year later, they're back on the road, but with the feds they'll stay behind bars."
Kenji Price says the key to the project is that all the agencies need to work together.
"Absolutely critical, its indispensable," Price said. "Without it, the program just cannot succeed."
He has met with all of the agencies involved and says every one is ready to put PSN in action.
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