The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Chris Thyer, says the indictment of 41 convicted felons on federal charges shows that the Department of Justice’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN) has been an important tool in reducing crime.
While violent crime has been in decline in much of the country for years, federal authorities hoped to battle troubling spikes in local crime through the VRN.
Little Rock and West Memphis were identified as cities that needed help because they were experiencing an increase in violence.
Thyer says he was initially skeptical of the program.
"I've come to realize that my initial skepticism was misplaced. That the mayors, police chiefs, and other leaders within both of those cities are to be commended for their vision in not only agreeing to become part of the VRN but to embrace the assistance coming not only from Washington but also from around the country."
Thyer said that, in the past, state and federal officials collaborated on cases but it was done on a piecemeal, case-specific basis. He noted that it was the Violence Reduction Network that helped with focusing on effective collaboration in a systematic manner.
"It's one of those, 'Yeah, why have we not been doing that all along?' [things]," Thyer said.
He continued to emphasize that the VRN has been one of many components to addressing crime.
"No one, not even those department heads in Washington, would dare tell you that participating in the VRN will cure the violence problem within a city," said Thyer.
Sally Yates, the acting U.S. Attorney General fired by President Trump, played a key part in the creation of The Violence Reduction Network in her role as Deputy Attorney General. But, Thyer said he has no reason to believe the program will change under the new administration.
"Today’s announcement, and the federal and local components’ continued efforts as part the VRN in Little Rock and West Memphis, illustrate the Department of Justice and new administration’s commitment to reducing crime in the nation, as detailed in a series of Executive Orders recently enacted," said Thyer.
According to 2014 FBI data, Little Rock was the most dangerous city in America with a population under 200,000 people. Data for 2015 showed Little Rock was the second most dangerous city of that population size.