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West Valley City snags $300,000 to target gun crime

Published November 20, 2012 3:03 pm

Grant • Prosecutions under Project Safe Neighborhoods take felons off the streets.
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West Valley City • In the past decade, local prosecutors with the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative have boosted the federal prison population by taking scores of felons off the streets.

Teaming up with the U.S. Attorney's Office, they've successfully prosecuted 425 drug dealers, convicted felons, gang members, armed robbers, domestic violence offenders and other criminals who committed federal gun crimes in West Valley City.

And their work with the nationwide campaign to reduce gun violence by taking firearms out of the hands of offenders will continue.

The city recently received a $300,000 PSN grant for a full-time prosecutor to focus on federal firearms cases generated by West Valley City police in 2013 and 2014. The Bureau of Justice Assistance gave out only 10 of these grants nationwide.

"With this new funding, we will continue to aggressively prosecute crime involving firearms," said West Valley City Attorney Eric Bunderson, who served two years as a special assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting gun cases.

Other West Valley City prosecutors who have been PSN prosecutors are John Huber, now executive assistant U.S. attorney in Utah; Clint Gilmore; and Ryan D. Robinson.

Amy Jones is next in line, starting in 2013.

Their success shows in the numbers. The average sentence received in the West Valley City cases was 47 months — or a total of nearly 1,700 years in the slammer. With no parole and only 54 days a year off for good behavior in some cases, the felons serve long stretches behind bars.

And in addition to prosecuting cases, West Valley came up with the idea several years ago of partnering with a private ad agency to publicize the consequences of breaking firearms laws.

The result was an award-winning campaign that included billboards and radio advertising.

Their success over the years was recognized last week with the PSN Partnership Award. Huber, who presented the award, praised West Valley City's work as "a great effort, unmatched in the nation."

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC