The U-S Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa unveiled two new initiatives Friday that are part of an ongoing program that seeks to crack down on criminals who use guns. U-S Attorney Matt Whittaker says “Project Safe Neighborhood” is a nationwide program that encourages people to report convicts who possess guns and educates convicted felons about the extra penalties if they’re caught having or using a gun. The new iniatives include a Spanish language video and public service announcements aimed at domestic violence. Whittaker says the program has proved to be successful. “This office has dramatically increased the number of gun prosecutions that we’ve taken on. In fact in just the last year, in 2004, we increased the number of defendants 53-percent.” He says those cases increased from 83 in 2003 to 126 in 2004. Whittaker says people who might use a gun to committ a crime do think twice when they learn of the increased penalties involved. He says when they find a gun can either get them a significantly increased penalty, or even life in prison, they’ll think twice about even possessing a gun. He says when they don’t possess a gun, they can’t use it. Project Safe Neighborhood encourages people to help by turning in those who have guns when they shouldn’t. He says girlfriends, spouses and domestic partners turn people in who have illegal guns. He says they also prosecute when a gun is found in the possession of someone arrested for another crime. Whittaker says the program helps federal, state and local officers work together to prevent gun violence.
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