Killeen police detain a man in the 300 block of Root Avenue in Killeen, Wednesday March 21, 2018.

Federal authorities have filed weapons and drug charges against more than 80 felons from the Killeen-Temple area since October 2017 as part the Justice Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, according to a news release Wednesday.

According to the release from the Western District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s Office in Waco, the federal charges filed in the past 12 months represent a 319 percent increase from the year before on similar charges in the area.

The federal government’s local involvement over the past year is part of a program aimed at taking violent offenders off the streets and funneling them through federal courts and penitentiaries.

“Through (Project Safe Neighborhoods), a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them,” the release said. “As part of this strategy, (the project) focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.”

U.S. Attorney John Bash attributed the success of the program statewide to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was confirmed to the position by the U.S. Senate in February 2017.

“Attorney General Sessions has demonstrated tough and inspiring leadership in prioritizing the fight against violent crime,” Bash said in the release. “Our office and our federal, state, and local partners have focused considerable resources on areas in Central and West Texas that have struggled with violent crime in the past.”

Since the hiring of Killeen police Chief Charles “Chuck” Kimble in September 2017, the Killeen Police Department has reported across-the-board decreases in violent crime, reaching as low as a 64 percent decrease in homicides.

Kimble has touted the department’s partnership with the federal government as one part of the department’s success over the last year as well as increased effort to bridge the gap between the department and the Killeen community.

“The thing we cannot gloss over is the relationship with the community,” Kimble told the Herald in September. “As frustrated as we are, they were too, and they came to our door and said ‘what can we do to help?’”

The year 2017 marked on the most dangerous in the city’s history as the violent crime rate more than doubled the national average and the department reported a dismal case clearance rate of 15 percent — nearly 40 percent below the national average.

While final clearance rates for the past 12 months have not been released, Kimble said the department is actively working on new strategies to bring the clearance rate up, including re-investigating unsolved homicide cases. | 254-501-7567

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