Monday, December 6, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn was joined today by Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, Paul Coggins, the U.S. Attorney for the Northeastern District of Texas and Dallas District Attorney Bill Hill, to announce the rollout of Texas Exile, a statewide initiative funded by the Governor's Criminal Justice Division, aimed at reducing gun crime.
"Texas Exile is a new and common sense approach to dealing with an old problem: taking illegal guns off the street and making our communities safer," said Attorney General Cornyn. "Today, we are sending a clear message to criminals: gun crime means hard time. If you carry a firearm illegally in Texas, you will go to prison," added Cornyn.
In September, Attorney General Cornyn and Texas Governor George W. Bush introduced Texas Exile, funded by a grant of $1.6 million from the Governor's Criminal Justice Division.
"The success of Texas Exile will be because of the cooperation between local, state, and federal officials. This project stands as a model for communities who concentrate resources on fighting violent crime. I commend law enforcement officials for their leadership on this very important program,"said Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
Under Texas Exile, eight prosecutors will solely concentrate on prosecuting criminals who illegally carry guns. These prosecutors will use a federal gun statute to seek the longest possible sentence for these criminals. The goal is to not only keep criminals off the street, but also to keep them in jail longer.
Additionally the Attorney General's public awareness campaign slogan "Gun Crime Means Hard Time" will be taken to the streets of Dallas through billboards, posters and radio and television advertising.
Texas Exile is modeled after Project Exile, a program first developed in Richmond, Virginia to reduce gun crime. In 1997, Richmond had the second highest murder rate in the nation. To make their streets safe again, law enforcement began an intense effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
By taking advantage of these same federal statutes, Texas Exile ensures any convicted felon or drug trafficker caught with a gun will be sentenced to five years in prison. These sentences increase if the felon was involved in any criminal activity when arrested. Habitual violent offenders are essentially exiled from city streets, and potential offenders are discouraged by the threat of harsh prison terms.
Since the beginning of the program in Richmond, over 300 criminals have been convicted and removed from the streets. The murder rate has dropped by 33 percent and the rate of violent crime has decreased by almost 50 percent.
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