For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney Announces Results of Local, State, and Federal Partnerships Combating Violent Crime in Ocala and Marion County
Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the results of a more than four-year gun violence reduction initiative between local, state, and federal law enforcement in Marion County. Since July 2018, the Ocala Division of the United States Attorney’s Office has partnered with the City of Ocala Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Office of the State Attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a joint effort to federally prosecute defendants who illegally possess firearms and ammunition in the Marion County area.
Between July 2018 and December 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Ocala Division) prosecuted 57 firearms cases involving 60 defendants. Many of the cases were adopted from the state system with the support of the Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office; others were handled jointly between state and federal investigators. As of December 31, 2022, 49 of the 60 defendants have been sentenced in federal court to a combined 388 years in federal prison.
“Combating violent crime requires the commitment and cooperation from everyone in our community,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg. “The partnerships displayed here today have existed for many years and we look forward to working with the dedicated men and women of these local, state and federal agencies and our citizens in making this community a safer place to live.”
“Keeping our neighborhoods safe from gun violence is a shared responsibility that requires local law enforcement to collaborate with state and federal authorities,” said Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken. “I am extremely proud of the incredible work these partners are doing to hold violent criminals accountable for their actions. The efforts of this unified partnership should be celebrated as it has been relentless in the pursuit of justice and has made tremendous strides to ensure that citizens feel safe in their community.”
“In a world where criminal activity and violent gun crimes are at the forefront of citizen concerns, I am proud to live here in Marion County. In this county, we have joined forces on a federal, state, and local level to fight against this. We support, protect and defend the Constitution and have a great appreciation for those lawful gun owners that simply wish to live peaceably. But, we will come together bringing all of our available resources to maintain that peace when the violent, evil person tries to disrupt that. We cannot accomplish this on our own. It takes our citizen’s support and the cohesive working relationship with our fellow law enforcement agencies to keep Marion County one of the safest places to live, work, and play,” stated Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.
We’re proud to help contribute the firepower of the federal government to the horsepower of our state and local partners to protect Central Florida’s communities,” said ATF Tampa Field Division’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard Coes. “No agency can tackle the issue of violent crime alone.”
“The FBI is committed to assisting our state and local law enforcement partners and enhancing their ability to impact or mitigate violent crime by providing analytical resources and agents to support their investigations when needed,” said Sherri E. Onks, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “In today’s world, the threats we face are too diverse, too dangerous, and too all-encompassing for any of us to tackle alone. This is a team approach, and the men and women of the FBI are committed to doing their part to help protect our communities across Florida.”
“Our primary mission at the State Attorney’s Office is public safety. In collaboration with the US Attorney’s Office, and all our law enforcement partners throughout Marion County, we strive every day to seek justice on behalf of victims of crime, and I consider it a privilege to work and live in our community,” stated State Attorney Bill Gladson.
This initiative in Marion County is part of the larger Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.