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Federal prosecutors building illegal firearms cases across North Alabama, strategy aims to reduce neighborhood violence

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the U.S. Department of Justice has increased violent crime prosecutions to 25-year highs and gun prosecutions to 10-year-highs.

Last year, Sessions directed all 94 U.S. Attorneys to target the most violent criminals in the most high-crime areas and the effort has been undertaken in north Alabama.

The strategy calls for using existing laws to bring federal charges, which often lead to longer prison terms than state charges.

Jay Town, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, says they're taking the direct approach.

“You have to get the illegal guns off the street,” Town said. “If there's felons and criminals walking around with firearms it's against the law. It's against federal law and it needs to be prosecuted federally.”

A recent two-month operation in Birmingham and across North Alabama resulted in 71 defendants arrested and more than 140 guns taken off the streets.

“What I think is so compelling about what we're doing is those 71 defendants accounted for over 800 arrests between them, over 210 felonies between them,” Town said.

Town said the strategy is similar to charging gangster Al Capone with tax evasion.

“When we know someone is involved in conduct, but maybe we can't prove it,” Town said. “But we can prove other conduct, let's punish them for their body of work as a criminal. Let's stop thinking about it as some low-level gun crime.

“It's not a low-level criminal, this is a high-level criminal, a worst offender, an alpha criminal, that needs to be removed from our neighborhoods.”