South Florida

Amid Wave of Gun Violence, Local Cops Getting Help From the Feds

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As a wave of gun violence incidents sweep over Miami-Dade County, you can expect to see local law enforcement agencies reaching out to their federal counterparts for help. 

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, known as the ATF, can provide essential expertise and federal prosecutors can use statutes out of reach to state attorneys.

The ATF is already assisting Miami-Dade Police in their investigation of the social hall shooting incident in which 21 people were shot and three died. 

“The federal government has had a long-standing history of assisting local and state governments in combatting just this type of activity,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who now works for Jones Walker.

“It doesn’t mean that state and local authorities can’t combat this type of activity but often it takes the clout and the import of the federal government to get the message across.”

Today, as an example, Weinstein’s former colleagues at the United States Attorney’s Office in Miami announced an indictment a man in a South Florida gang investigation, saying he had an arsenal of guns and ammunition in his apartment including illegal machine guns. Weinstein says charging him in the federal system has major advantages.

“By using the federal government and resources of the federal government, you can get these cases to move along faster in the system, often the punishment connected to these cases is greater than the punishment that would be received in state court,” Weinstein said. 

The ATF also has a sophisticate database system called the National Integrates Ballistic Information Network, called NIBIN, which can link different crime scenes together. It’s an valuable tool for local law enforcement agencies fighting gang violence.

“The beauty of NIBIN is you get pieces of evidence on many different crime scenes so the connection made by NIBIN lets us take the cases, maybe a palm print, maybe DNA, and connect to that firearms evidence and tie everything together,” explained Colonel Timothy Scanlon of the Jefferson Parrish Sheriff’s Office near New Orleans. 

He was speaking in a video produced by ATF, describing how NIBIN helped his agency solve a mass shooting incident. 

One of the other tools federal prosecutors can use is the federal RICO racketeering law, which can help them make connections between different crimes. That’s how they brought down gangs in Liberty City and Overtown years ago, and they can do it again now. 

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