BOSTON — For the second consecutive year, the estimated number of violent crimes nationwide decreased, a credit to the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. The District of Massachusetts has six designated PSN cities, Boston, New Bedford, Brockton, Lawrence, Worcester and Springfield. 

According to the FBI’s 2018 Crime in the United States Report, the violent crime rate decreased for the second consecutive year, down 3.9 percent from 2017. The data is a success for PSN, the Justice Department’s evidence-based initiative that brings together a spectrum of stakeholders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and developing comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally-based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

“A primary mission of the Department of Justice is to reduce crime and to make our communities safer,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “PSN has made great strides in that effort because it surges law enforcement resources, targets the most violent criminals, and provides necessary funding and support. But it would not be successful without the officers and agents that are on the front lines preventing crime each day.”

“The revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods program is a major success,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “It packs a powerful punch by combining advanced data with local leadership, further reducing violence in communities across the country and improving overall public safety. U.S. Attorneys continue to focus their enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals and work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal police. The Justice Department’s relationships across the board have never been stronger.”

Over the past two years, The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. As we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions in Massachusetts over the past year:

Enforcement Actions

  • A major component of our violent crime strategy has been devoted toward disrupting violent national and transnational gangs, specifically MS-13 and 18th Street. Beginning in 2016, the District of Massachusetts successfully dismantled the east coast leadership of MS-13, culminating in the largest MS-13 case in the nation.  The case resulted in the prosecution of dozens of leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in a sprawling racketeering indictment which charged six murders, approximately 20 attempted murders, robberies, drug trafficking and other violent offenses.
  • In August 2018, the PSN initiative targeted impact players and repeat offenders responsible for violent acts and firearm related offenses in Boston and Brockton. This federal investigation resulted in 29 individuals charged with federal and state drug, firearms, and counterfeiting offenses.
  • In October 2018, a coordinated sweep resulted in the arrest of 35 criminals on federal drug, firearm and immigration offenses, as well as state warrants. This effort targeted impact players and repeat offenders in and around the City of Lawrence, all of whom have prior convictions and those with criminal records who are in the U.S. illegally.
  • Operation Devil’s Highway was a 10-week enforcement operation in the summer of 2019 that brought together federal, state, and local partners to focus on drug trafficking activity between the City of Lawrence and destinations in New Hampshire. The operation resulted in charges against 40 people for federal drug offenses, with at least a dozen more defendants facing state charges. In total, the operation resulted in the seizure of more than 14 kilograms of fentanyl, five kilograms of heroin, 29 kilograms of cocaine, four firearms and body armor.

Improvements to Community Safety

The District of Massachusetts captured and analyzed violent crime data related to homicides, aggravated assaults, and robberies in the six designated PSN cities (Boston, New Bedford, Brockton, Lawrence, Worcester and Springfield) in order to better understand the violent crime problem and potential enforcement and prevention needs. This data, from June 2017 to June 2019, highlights a significant reduction in violent crimes:  

  • During the relevant period, homicides were reduced by 57 percent in New Bedford, 50 percent in Lawrence, 36 percent in Brockton, 16 percent in Boston and five percent in Springfield;
  • Aggravated assault rates decreased in many of the PSN cities, most notably by 10 percent in Brockton and by seven percent in Lawrence; and
  • Similarly, robberies were reduced by 41 percent in Lawrence, 26 percent in Worcester, 10 percent in New Bedford and eight percent in Springfield.

To learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit

— U.S. Attorney’s Office

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