Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the indictment of 19 Columbus men associated with the Crips gang.
A grand jury alleges the men were involved in a racketeering conspiracy that includes five murders, multiple attempted murders, and other violent and drug-trafficking related crimes.
Fifteen of the defendants are in custody, and U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said more arrests are in the works.
“I think the purpose of this indictment is to shut down the Crips in Columbus," Glassman says. "The goal is not to take them apart piece by piece, but to dismantle the organization root and branch."
Sessions congratulated Glassman on the indictment, saying that last year he directed all U.S. attorneys to do two things under the national initiative Project Safe Neighborhoods:
“Target and prioritize prosecutions of the most violent people in the most violent areas, just like you’ve done here with the Crips in the King-Lincoln neighborhood,” Sessions said. “No doubt about it, that’s exactly what we’re looking for around this country.”
Sessions said he also told U.S. attorneys to “engage with a wide variety of stakeholders. From police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, mayors, community groups, victims’ advocates in order to identify the needs specific to your communities.”
People’s Justice Project organizer Tammy Fournier Alsaada says local and federal government have not focused enough on engaging communities in reducing violent crime.
“We are no safer,” Alsaada said. “We had the highest number of homicides last year in our city’s history. And so it’s not the money investment. It’s the people at the table.”
Alsaada’s group tried to attend Sessions’ announcement, but was denied access because it was limited to media only.
“Until you bring those people that are directly affected by, those at the highest risk of being shot or being a shooter to the table, you’re not gonna stop no violence.”
Sessions also announced more than $2 million in funding for various state and local agencies, including:
- $799,000 for the Columbus Fire Department
- $999,000 for Columbus Public Health
- $881,000 for Franklin County
- $899,000 for Franklin County Municipal Court
- $687,000 for the Ohio Department of Education
- $363,000 for Summit County
- $374,000 for Hocking County
- $113,000 for Akron
- $176,000 for New Franklin.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a national initiative by the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce gun violence in the U.S. It was established under President George Bush in 2001.