What is Operation Cease-Fire?
Operation Cease-Fire is a gun-violence prevention program targeting gun crimes and violent offenders through a strategic partnership between the Brevard-Seminole State Attorney's Office, United States Attorney's Office, and local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. It stems from Project SAFE Neighborhoods, President George Bush's federal program to reduce gun crime across America. The goal of Operation Cease-Fire is simple: create safer neighborhoods by reducing gun violence and taking armed predators off our streets.
Retired State Attorney Norm Wolfinger and the Operation Cease-Fire team met with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in Philadelphia on January 30, 2003. Pictured above, front row, third from left, U.S. Attorney Paul Perez, Middle District of Florida; fourth from left, U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft; second row, third from left, State Attorney Phil Archer, 18th Judicial Circuit; fourth from left, Retired State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, 18th Judicial Circuit; far right, Rob Bodner, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Florida.
This program requires intense cooperation between local law enforcement, the United States Attorney's Office, state prosecutors, and federal law enforcement. On August 30, 2002, Retired State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, former United States Attorney Paul Perez, and local law enforcement chiefs from Brevard and Seminole Counties met for an official ceremony to sign an interagency memorandum of understanding that outlined the goals and objectives of Operation Cease-Fire. Additional pictures from those signing ceremonies are available in a slide show. The two sites for the official signings - Altamonte Springs and Titusville - were significant because those are the two cities where the first cases for Operation Cease-Fire originated.
In announcing Operation Cease-Fire on August 30th, Retired State Attorney Wolfinger and former United States Attorney Perez touted it as a means that has the potential to drastically reduce gun crimes on our community streets. Former United States Attorney Paul Perez also called the Brevard/Seminole Operation Cease-Fire the model for the State of Florida. Retired State Attorney Wolfinger said, "To the violent criminals in our society, a gun is like an article of clothing, to be put on every morning like you or I put on a shirt. These thugs give new meaning to the expression 'dressed to kill'." Gun violence represents one of the greatest threats to the safety of our community.
How Does It Work?
Experienced prosecutors in our office review all gun crime cases to determine if prosecution in federal court would better promote public safety. If so, we work in cooperation with federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's Office to prepare the cases for federal court.
As cases are accepted into the federal system, our prosecutors drop the state charges as State Attorney Phil Archer is pictured doing here in one of the first Brevard County cases to go to the federal system.
Why Would Local Cases Be Prosecuted In Federal Court?
Although state laws such as 10-20-Life have strengthened sentences for gun violence crimes, in some cases federal penalties are much more severe. One example is the crime of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Under federal law, the average sentence may be almost double the sentence received in state court.
Among other benefits to prosecuting the case federally are quicker case resolution and incarceration in other distant states upon conviction; this places the criminal in an environment far removed from friends and familiar surroundings and may serve as a further deterrent to crime.
Pictured at right: Retired State Attorney Norm Wolfinger discusses the transfer of a group of bank robbers to U.S. Marshals' custody. The four men might have been familiar with the local jail system, but they are on a new, intimidating trip to a federal holding facility now.
Does It Have To Be A Violent Crime?
No. In another early case, a driver was stopped by an officer for having illegal tint on his car windows. A search resulted in seizure of an illegal firearm. Because the driver was a convicted felon, he was prosecuted in federal court under this program. More than ninety-five percent of crime is local and traditionally has been prosecuted in state courts. Federal prosecutors would not have been aware of this arrest before this program, but now they are.
Is Prosecution The Only Goal?
Definitely not. Crime prevention through community involvement is the cornerstone of any successful program. The assigned state prosecutors work hard to maintain an effective outreach program to communicate to the community, and to potential offenders, the message that gun violence will not be tolerated.
Early identification of these offenders, combined with coordination between law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the State Attorney’s Office, will ensure stronger cases and reinforce aggressive prosecution.
In addition, by involving the community, the residents will be empowered to take back their streets. The downward spiral of a community can be halted and the quality of life enhanced when violence is curtailed.
This strategic approach teams a variety of civic organizations and community leaders with law enforcement and prosecutors creating a strong and powerful coalition dedicated to the common goal of public safety.
How Will Operation Cease-Fire Make Our Streets Safer?
First, we are directly confronting the potential violators so that they are fully aware of the consequences of illegal gun possession or crime.
Second, state and federal prosecutors along with law enforcement are working together to decide what court system-state or federal-will be the quickest to remove the offender from the street and the most likely to keep him away longer.
Third, by reaching out to the law-abiding citizens in a community, and encouraging the sharing of values and the changing of attitudes regarding crime, conditions that invite or enable gun violence can be affected. By changing norms and expectations, you can help make a significant and positive difference.
What can you, as a member of the community, do to help?
Members of the community can strengthen gun violence prevention efforts in the following ways
Support vigorous enforcement and prosecution of gun law violators at state and federal levels.
Participate in Neighborhood Watch programs and encourage your community to engage in the development and implementation of other crime prevention strategies with local law enforcement.
Support programs focused on children, including mentoring programs and parenting skills classes.
Keep weapons secure against theft. More than 300,000 guns are stolen in home burglaries annually.
If you suspect someone illegally possesses a gun or has used a gun in a crime, report it to your local or federal law enforcement agency.
Local Law Enforcement
Brevard County Law Enforcement
Seminole County Law Enforcement
Federal Law Enforcement