A new partnership between local police and federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors is expected to reduce violent crime in Anniston, Oxford and surrounding areas, according to local police chiefs.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town, who presides over the state’s Northern District, announced Monday that Attorney General William Barr had selected Anniston and Oxford for its National Public Safety Partnership, which aims to reduce violent crime by increasing federal support of local law enforcement.
“Our collective goal is simply to reduce crime, especially violent crime, in Anniston, Oxford and surrounding areas,” Town was quoted as saying in the news release. “My office, local and federal law enforcement, and the Department of Justice are fully committed to facilitating the strategies, training, and technical assistance to do just that. We have prison beds already reserved for the alpha criminals in Calhoun County ... and we are coming.”
Oxford and Anniston are two of 10 cities nationwide selected in 2019. In order to be selected, the news release said, cities must have violent crime rates that “far exceed the national average,” show a commitment to stopping that crime and comply with federal immigration requirements.
Town said in a phone interview Monday that the willingness of police in Anniston and Oxford to accept federal help stood out to Barr during the selection process. Too often, Town said, local police are reluctant to take suggestions and resources from federal agents.
The two cities’ police chiefs “showed that they can take all the help they can get, and that there’s always more room on their side of the battlefield,” Town said.
Anniston police chief Shane Denham said the three-year partnership between local and federal agents will give his officers access to more funding and resources.
Through the partnership, Denham said, police can connect with other partnering agencies and learn about what worked best for them.
Denham said the partnership also offers training, technical assistance, a better chance at receiving federal grants and mentorship from the Department of Justice.
“We’ll be assigned somebody with experience that may be able to offer some insights,” Denham said.
If a local agency is struggling in some areas, Denham said, the partnership can highlight those issues in order to receive federal help more quickly.
Additionally, Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said, part of the partnership’s focus is to increase federal prosecution for violent crimes, upping the penalties for those offenses.
“By prosecuting those individuals federally, they get more time in prison,” he said.
Partridge said the partnership, combined with the East Metro Area Crime Center that opened last month in his city, could decrease the crime rates in nearby areas as well.
Partridge said the East Metro Area Crime Center may extend the partnership with federal agents to smaller agencies in surrounding counties that regularly use the center.
“This will help the entire region in reducing crime,” he said.
Denham said local police have worked more closely over the past few years with federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In those two years, Denham said, he’s seen local crime rates drop and crimes prosecuted more efficiently.
“We all have our individual strengths,” he said. “When we all work together, it just makes us better.”
While the partnership won’t establish new relationships with other federal agencies, Denham said, it will strengthen the alliances local police already have.
Town said in the news release the Justice Department started the partnership, along with the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, in June 2017 after President Donald Trump issued an order charging the department with leading a national effort against violent crime.