State and local law officers are teaming up with federal officers to try and cut back the number of gun crimes in Iowa’s major metropolitan areas. Steve Colloton, the U.S. Attorney for Iowa’s Southern District, says the program involves public service messages on TV, billboards, and grants to state and local law enforcement agencies. He says we live in a relatively safe state, but in 2001 there were over 13-hundred gun crimes committed. Colloton says the program called “Project Safe Neighborhoods”, targets convicted felons who illegally possess and use guns. He says local and state law officers will work with federal officials to ensure gun toting felons are prosecuted so they get the most jail time possible. He says they want to send the message that “gun crime packs hard time,” if you’re a felon with a gun, you’re going to do hard time. Colloton says the billboards and public service announcements are designed to remind felons they can’t possess guns, and the campaign also asks the public to help police find the people who’re breaking the law.He says there are people in the community who know where the guns are, and they can help police find the guns. Colloton says those in the community that help root out the guns will be protected. Colloton says 70 percent of all gun crimes occur in Black Hawk, Linn, Woodbury, Polk, Pottawattamie and Scott Counties, and that’s why law officers in those areas are eligible for grants. Polk County Sheriff Dennis Anderson says the grant he’s applied for would help continue a program dealing with guns.He says they have an officer who’s specially trained to work with the A-T-F to adopt gun cases discovered by drug officers. Anderson says the officer works to see that those cases are prosecuted under federal law so the criminals face the toughest possible sentence. Des Moines Police Chief Bill McCarthy says targeting the guns makes a difference. He says he’s for anything that takes the guns out of the hands of criminals, as that directly influences the amount of crime. The program spends 340-thousand dollars on the billboards and T-V public service announcements and other material, and it will also provide some 250-thousand dollars in grants to law officers.
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