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ATF Online – Firearms – Programs – Violent Crime Impact Teams (VCIT)

April 26, 2011

Violent Crime Impact Teams (VCIT)

In June 2004, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced the deployment of VCITs in 15 cities. As the lead Federal law enforcement agency in the fight against violent firearms crime, ATF was charged with coordinating the program. The VCIT concept, designed and implemented in collaboration with the Deputy Attorney General, sought to extend recent reductions in the rate of overall violent crime to select areas exhibiting significant numbers of homicides. The foundation of the VCITprogram was the identification, targeting, disruption, arrest and prosecution of the “worst of the worst” criminals responsible for violent crime in targeted hot spots. Fundamental to this effort was the use of innovative technologies, analytical investigative resources, and an integrated Federal, State, and local law enforcement strategy.

Goals and Objectives of the Violent Crime Impact Teams

The goal of the VCIT program is the reduction of homicides and other firearms-related violence through the identification, investigation, and arrest of those responsible for violent crime. The long-term measure of the VCIT’s success is the mitigation of localized crime without displacement of the violence to neighboring communities.

From the violent street gang activity in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to home invasion crews in Tampa, Florida, the VCITs adapt to address the violent crime problems within the cities they serve, while operating within a programmatic framework that seeks to achieve national goals. In 13 of 15 cities, gangs and their members were linked to increases in violent crime. As a result, localized VCIT tactics became anti-gang strategies in varying degrees.

The VCIT strategy dictates applying technology to identify hot spots and to target, investigate and arrest violent offenders. ATF’s National Tracing Center, Crime Gun Analysis Branch, Regional Crime Gun Centers (RCGC), and other technologies, such as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) and geographic information systems, are used to pinpoint localized crime problems and to identify the “worst of the worst” criminals. Integrating intelligence from local law enforcement agencies with information produced through new technologies is fundamental to successfully combating violent firearms crime in these neighborhoods.

Through lessons learned from past collaborative efforts, ATF recognized that Federal, State, and local law enforcement efforts to combat violent crime and gang-related problems could be effectively multiplied through an influx of federal resources and experience. Specifically, partnerships developed with community leaders help generate previously untapped resources that can be directed to counter violent crime. As a result, ATF has partnered with social service agencies, nonprofit community assistance agencies, faith-based groups, schools, and private businesses to promote a comprehensive and coordinated community action plan to advance the goals of gang suppression, intervention, and prevention. ATF continues its effort to broadcast success stories to the community through local media. An effective media campaign, publicizing the arrest and severe penalties received by individuals who commit crimes of violence proved to be a strong and convincing deterrent to offenders contemplating future crimes.

VCIT employs traditional means to proactively develop criminal cases. Team members utilize undercover techniques and informants in their work to identify, investigate and seek prosecution against gang members, illicit gun possessors, and firearms traffickers. VCITs obtain Federal and/or State search and arrest warrants in an effort to remove gang members and other violent offenders from the community. Assistant United States Attorneys assigned to the task forces facilitate the timely and efficient handling of Federal court proceedings for offenders referred for prosecution, in concert with counterparts at local District Attorneys’ offices.

Team members review and screen each police report that documents firearms-related violence committed within their VCIT’s areas of operation, leading to Federal prosecutions of gang members and other violent offenders for firearms violations. When Federal prosecution is not warranted, offenders are, at a minimum, interviewed about their sources of firearms. VCITs work along with gang, robbery, and narcotics units operating in targeted areas.VCIT members are active within targeted hot spots during peak hours of violence and respond immediately following the occurrence of firearms-related crimes.

When responding to firearms-related crime scenes, including homicides, VCIT members assist the local police by investigating all firearms-related leads and ensuring firearms evidence is traced, and when possible, ballistically imaged and queried through NIBIN. In addition, ATF-trained explosives detection canines and canine handlers are made available to VCITs to aid in the recovery of firearms and ballistic evidence from crime scenes and search warrant locations.

VCIT Cities

  1. Alabama: Birmingham
  2. Arizona: Mesa, Tucson
  3. California: Fresno, Los Angeles, San Bernardino
  4. Connecticut: Hartford
  5. Florida: Miami, Orlando, Tampa
  6. Georgia: Atlanta
  7. Louisiana: Baton Rouge, New Orleans
  8. Maryland: Baltimore
  9. Minnesota: Minneapolis
  10. Mississippi: Jackson
  11. Nevada: Las Vegas
  12. New Jersey: Camden
  13. New Mexico: Albuquerque
  14. North Carolina: Greensboro
  15. Ohio: Columbus
  16. Oklahoma: Tulsa
  17. Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  18. Puerto Rico: San Juan
  19. Tennessee: Nashville
  20. Texas: Houston, Laredo
  21. Virginia: Richmond
  22. Wisconsin: Milwaukee

Homicides with Firearms

Statistical Pilot Performance Assessment
City 2003 Jun-Nov 2004 Jun-Nov % Change
Totals 576 480 -17%
Albuquerque 4 2 -50%
Baltimore 91 128 41%
Chattanooga 6 2 -67%
Columbus 32 26 -19%
Greensboro 13 3 -77%
Las Vegas 62 51 -18%
Los Angeles 72 77 7%
Miami 36 22 -39%
Pittsburgh 33 13 -61%
Philadelphia 12 3 -75%
Richmond 51 38 -25%
Tampa 19 9 -53%
Tucson 24 18 -25%
Tulsa 29 12 -59%
Washington DC & Virginia 92 76 -17%

Note 1: Las Vegas and Philadelphia compare the time period July through December, since the program was initiated in July, 2004.

Note 2: This data is preliminary and is subject to change.

Note 3: Where available, data represents statistics for the target areas within the city identified and not a citywide or metropolitan statistical area.

Courtesy of: ATF Online – Firearms – Programs – Violent Crime Impact Teams (VCIT).

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