AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - On Wednesday afternoon, the Amarillo Police Department announced a new safety initiative that involves the help of the FBI. Known as Project Safe Neighborhood, this initiative plans to better detain violent criminals in Amarillo by filing crimes in federal court.
FBI Special Agent Eric Jackson, who is in charge of the Dallas division, spoke to the community to explain the purpose for their partnership.
“You are probably wondering what the FBI and other federal agents are bringing to this fight,” said Jackson.
FBI Special Agent Jackson said the fight that he is referring to is against the violent criminals that are exploiting our neighborhoods.
“What Project Safe Neighborhood allows us to do is that if we file charges federally, if we file federal charges, all federal defendants are housed in the Randall County Jail,” said Chief of Police at Amarillo Police Department Ed Drain. “The reason they are housing the Randall County Jail is that Randall County Jail has the capacity and Randall County Sheriff’s Office has a contract with the federal government to take all federal defendants.”
Officials said the majority of violent crimes occurring in Amarillo are in Potter County. They go on to say that for every one crime in Randall County, there are two and a half crimes in Potter County which can overwhelm the Potter County Criminal Justice System.
By implementing Project Safe Neighborhood, officials are aiming to improve the safety of Amarillo, particularly in the North Heights area.
“When these violent offenders are out on the street and in many cases are continuing to intimidate witnesses in a community like ours, where a lot of people know each other, that’s what’s going on,” said Chief Drain.
To keep criminals in jail, APD will be filing federal cases, which federal magistrates can deny bond with cause.
“Now if they keep people locked up on the federal side, then their cases have to be adjudicated or handled much quicker, and in some cases, we are seeing those cases on the federal side handled in like weeks versus years in the case on the stateside,” said Chief Drain.
Officials said filing federal cases can keep defendants off the streets.
“The same tools that we use to go after spies, terrorist, we’re going to be using some of those tools to make sure that we bring individuals who have exploited this area. Those individuals who have harmed this area, and those individuals who have made Amarillo a place that has violence, that needs to be dealt with. We are going to bring those tools to the fight,” said Jackson.
The project started earlier this month and APD says that they have already seen safety improvement in Amarillo.