OGDEN — Federal officials say nearly 90 cases have been filed in federal court under Ogden’s Project Safe Neighborhoods since local efforts began in 2018.

Since the announcement of the enhanced effort by local and federal law enforcement to prosecute drug traffickers, violent offenders and people illegally possessing guns, 88 cases have been filed in federal court under the initiative between May 2018 and January 2020, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City.

As a result of those 88 cases, 47 people have been convicted. Federal officials say 39 cases are still pending in the federal court system and two cases have been dismissed. The average sentence for those prosecuted is 34.5 months, or nearly three years in a federal prison.

For 2019 specifically, 56 cases were filed. Out of those cases, 21 people have been convicted; and 35 more cases are still pending, according to federal officials.

The new report provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office is the latest update in the ongoing effort of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a nationwide program described as a tightened effort between federal and local law enforcement to identify cases that could be prosecuted on the federal level.

For Ogden, officials homed in on what they call the “target enforcement area” of the city. If someone who is eligible for federal prosecution is accused of committing a crime in that area, they are screened for potential federal charges.

U.S. Attorney John Huber said the street name for this area is simple — people call it “the box.

The target enforcement area starts at 12th Street from the north and runs to 36th Street in the south. The eastern limit of the area is Monroe Boulevard and runs to Wall Avenue as the western barrier. The enforcement area will also include 21st Street going west and will end at 1900 West in Weber County.

The last update on the PSN program by local and federal law enforcement occurred on Sept. 13 in Ogden, when police announced they had confiscated over 115 weapons in cases that eventually were charged in the federal system. A grenade launcher and large bundles of narcotics were among the dozens of guns and other items on the display during the September press conference.

At that time, officials said the indictment number stood at 74 people, with convictions totaling 21. Law enforcement officials reported in September that 34,000 grams of illegal drugs were seized in PSN cases, with the bulk of those drugs, over 29,000 grams, being methamphetamine.

Following the September press conference, Huber cited PSN as a key factor in the 19.7% drop in Ogden’s part-one crime rate between 2017 and 2018, which was announced in February 2019. Part-one crimes consist of homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson.

Ogden’s Project Safe Neighborhoods was announced the year prior, in April 2018. PSN has existed since 2002, but the reinvigorated effort began in 2018 under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Ogden was a target focus for the District of Utah.

Several Ogden-area officials were on hand when Sessions visited the Utah State Capitol in October 2018 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the revitalization of PSN.

Ogden officials played a prominent role in the event, with Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt speaking. Deputy Weber County Attorney Branden Miles — one of two local prosecutors cross-deputized to handle both state and federal cases — was recognized by Sessions for his work on PSN.

Huber has said repeatedly since 2018 that the program would continue in Ogden. This past September, Huber told the Standard-Examiner that the program is here to stay, despite the change from Sessions to current Attorney General William Barr.

Jacob Scholl is the Cops and Courts Reporter for the Standard-Examiner. Email him at jscholl@standard.net and follow him on Twitter at @Jacob_Scholl.

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