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Omaha 360, Federal prosecutors work together to combat crime

Posted at 4:33 PM, Oct 04, 2018

The number of gun violence victims in Omaha has dropped by more than 50 percent in the past decade and a major reason is the efforts of Omaha 360 and Project Safe Neighborhoods, who have been working together since 2008.

"Really focusing on bringing groups together and have done a lot work on the enforcement side and what we've done at 360 is on the front end, prevention and intervention," Willie Barney, founder of the Omaha Empowerment Network.  

Project Safe Neighborhoods has helped put violent criminals away since it began in 2001. The federal program was re-energized last year when Attorney General Jeff Sessions poured millions of extra dollars into the program. The money allows the federal prosecutors to get involved in local cases in order to put away violent criminals for the longest possible time. 

Project Safe Neighborhood funds an Omaha Police officer, who on a daily basis looks through new cases that came in the night before and tries to determine would this be better handled by the Douglas County's Attorney Office or the United States Attorney's Office," says Joe Kelly, US Attorney for Nebraska.      

But Omaha 360 also deserves some credit. New director Ricky Smith says they've been helped by Omaha Police, who have made it easier for the community to approach them.

“Watching some of those houses that may be hot spots for negative activity and getting those things reported. Actually having Crimestoppers at the table to say 'hey, if you want to report something anonymously, that's fine as long as we can report it and get things handled on the enforcement side," says Ricky Smith. Director Omaha 360.

A positive relationship between the community and the local police department does not exactly happen everywhere. 

"I think it's why Omaha doesn't have the community unrest, the rift between the community and the police department that you see in some other districts," says Joe Jeanette, law enforcement coordinator, US Attorney's Office.

Both sides are not satisfied yet, and Willie Barney says collaboration is key to keep the momentum going.

There's not one thing, there's no silver bullet, I think there's a search for that in other cities but the reality of it is, it takes all things, it takes prevention, it takes working with the schools, it definitely takes employment opportunities, says Barney.