Fighting gun violence in Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and off the streets.

With the city of Memphis' homicide number ticking up at an alarming rate this tough task is more important than ever.

Project Safe Neighborhoods, a multi-agency task force works to make sure suspects are prosecuted at the highest level.

"We've become more aggressive," said U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton of the Western District of Tennessee.

Fighting gun violence, together.

Project Safe Neighborhoods is made up of a coalition from the US Attorneys Office, DA's Office, ATF, MPD, and Shelby County Sheriff's Office.

"Literally every week, every crime that's committed here in Shelby County with a firearm is reviewed by this task force," explained Stanton.

They've been busy Stanton said over the last year they've reviewed more than 2,000 cases, more than 80% of the crimes were committed with a firearm.

"We try and focus on violent criminals and repeat offenders," said Sergeant Zachery Gatlin, with the Memphis Police Department, who also works with Project Safe Neighborhoods.

The goal is to make sure they serve as much time behind bars as possible. Earlier this month Marlon Boyd was sentenced to federal prison time.

At the state level, he was found guilty of committing murder in 2014 in South Memphis.

Project Safe Neighborhoods investigated and Boyd was also slapped federal felony firearm charges.

While Project Safe Neighborhoods has been around for more than a decade those on the task force say it's not just locking up the bad guys. Sergeant Zachery Gatlin also works with ex-convicts, who have recently been released from prison, to keep them on the straight and narrow.

"We work with some halfway houses. With your convictions it changes the laws and guidelines you're going to have to live with in the future," he explained.

They're also trying to intervene before it gets to that point. They work with Shelby County Juvenile Court in a Cease Fire program. They talk to teens on the verge of going down the wrong path.

"Understanding that often times because of who they associate with whether it's gangs or running with the wrong crowd we give them vividly what can happen and will happen if they take that wrong turn and end up on the trajectory that's hard to get out of the criminal justice system," explained Stanton.

Those on the task force say having multiple agencies work together helps them keep better track of crimes not just in Memphis but throughout the entire Mid-South.

They're also asking for the public's help.

If you notice something out of the ordinary in your community make sure you speak up.

Everyone has to work together.

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