US attorney places focus on violent crimes

SIOUX CITY (AP) — Federal authorities in Iowa are placing a new priority on prosecuting violent crime and firearm offenses.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa is handling an increasing number of cases that would typically be considered state-level offenses, according to the Sioux City Journal.

“That is a deliberate effort on our part. It’s an effort to get at violent offenders in our community,” said Peter Deegan, U.S. Attorney for the district. “I don’t have any reason to believe there are more armed offenders out there committing crimes. It’s that we’ve redoubled our efforts to prosecute gun violence.”

In some cases, Deegan said firearms offenses carry longer federal prison sentences than similar charges in the state legal system.

In the Northern District of Iowa in fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted 189 defendants in gun cases compared to 90 defendants in 2016.

“There are areas affected by gun violence, and they deserve our attention,” Deegan said.

In November, the Justice Department launched Project Guardian, a nationwide plan to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. It focuses on investigating, prosecuting and preventing gun crimes.

A key component to that effort, Deegan said, is the cooperation of federal authorities with state, local and tribal law enforcement. Deegan said his office already benefits from cooperation with local agencies across the district. He credited the Sioux City Police Department’s special investigation unit for its work apprehending violent offenders.

In the past two years, the Northern District has added two violent crimes prosecutors to the office, which includes 28 attorneys split between Cedar Rapids and Sioux City.

Deegan said prosecutors remain in contact with local county attorneys and review cases to determine if federal charges may be warranted.