Report: Inspector calls into question ATF's anti-gun program

Minneapolos-St. Paul's KARE 11 is reporting on comments by the Justice Department inspector general on a highly-touted BATFE program that targets violent gun crimes in nearly two dozen cities. The inspector general says that the BATFE has yet to demonstrate that the program works...

    The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has made faulty comparisons and drawn on insufficient data to conclude that the program is succeeding in driving down violent crime in cities that have Violent Crime Impact Teams, inspector general Glenn A. Fine said in a report...

    ...Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also has been enthusiastic in his praise of the anti-crime teams, which were created in 15 cities in 2004. There are now 23 at a cost of $20 million this year. The Justice Department is proposing to spend $35.7 million to have teams in 40 cities in 2007.

    Announcing the newest team in Atlanta in March, Gonzales said gun crimes dropped almost immediately in the other 22 cities. "We know this program works ... Almost across the board, gun crimes have been reduced in those areas where VCIT has built upon the successes of the President's Project Safe Neighborhoods program," he said.

    Yet Fine said his auditors have seen erratic use of statistics and he questioned why the agency looked only at homicides instead of all violent crimes committed with guns. For eight of the original 15 cities, ATF reported city-wide data on homicides, rather than just the parts of the city where the anti-crime teams were working.

    A startling 50 percent decrease in homicides in Albuquerque, N.M., actually reflected a drop from four to two, a small change that makes "it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the VCIT initiative," Fine said.

Inspector General Fine is calling on the BATFE to come up with a better way to assess the program, develop more standards for it and work with more federal law enforcement agencies in the affected areas.

The anti-crime teams operate in these cities: Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta, Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Camden, N.J., Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbus, Ohio; Fresno, Calif.; Greensboro, N.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Houston; Laredo, Texas; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Richmond, Va.; Tampa, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.; Tulsa, Okla.; and the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia region.

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