Project Safe Neighborhoods

Omaha is one of just a dozen cities to get a grant aimed at curbing violent crime, specifically crime involving guns and gangs.

At just under $40,000, it funds a Director of Operations for Project Safe Neighborhoods.

It's a federally funded program calling for coordination between, civic groups, Omaha Police, the ATF and the United States Attorney's Office.

Virgil Patlan has spent much of his life walking Omaha's streets and dealing with the issues surrounding gun violence.

"I live in this community and everyone here wants their kids to go outside and have a safe playground, a safe park," he said.

Patlan says Omaha is making progress in the fight against gun violence and one key is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program aimed at reducing gun and gang violence.

Joe Jeanatte is with the US Attorney's Office.

"I think we have been very effective in getting the community involved in working with local, federal and state agencies to address the gun problem," Jeanatte said.

Ray Fidone is the Director of Operations for the city's Safe Neighborhoods Program.

He's a liaison between several governmental and neighborhood groups combating gun and gang violence.

"Every single gun (turned over to Omaha Police) comes to me," he said. "We screen the case to see if there's a federal nexus inside the case for federal prosecution."

That means those committing guns crimes receive maximum sentences.

"There's a lot of guns on the street," Fidone said. "Probably about a fifth of the guns we take in through OPD are stolen guns."

That's from about 1,000 guns taken off our streets each year. Many are used by gang members in the commission of a violent crime.

"If there's a gang member involved there's going to be a special emphasis and we'll take that case federal," he said.

And if prosecuted, those dangerous criminals are sent to federal prison and off Omaha's streets.

"We'll surgically remove those bad elements and get them out of the community and hopefully them being away changes their minds and get them out of the gang," Fidone said.

The Omaha City Council is expected to formally approve Fidone's continued service as Director of Operations at its 2pm meeting Tuesday.


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