Tuesday, December 7, 1999
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn was joined today by Houston Mayor Lee Brown and Mervyn Mosbacker, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, to announce the rollout of Texas Exile, a statewide initiative funded by the Governor's Criminal Justice Division, aimed at reducing gun crime.
"Texas Exile is a new and common sense approach to dealing with an old problem: taking illegal guns off the street and making our communities safer," said Attorney General Cornyn. "Today, we are sending a clear message to criminals: gun crime means hard time. If you carry a firearm illegally in Texas, you will go to prison," added Cornyn.
In September, Attorney General Cornyn and Texas Governor George W. Bush introduced Texas Exile, funded by a grant of $1.6 million from the Governor's Criminal Justice Division.
"If this program gets even one more violent offender off the streets - if it prevents just one gun-related crime from being committed - it has made our streets safer, and that is the most important task we as public officials have. I commend Attorney General Cornyn for taking the initiative to bring Project Exile to Texas and I look forward to working with his office to implement this program in Houston," said Mayor Brown.
Under Texas Exile, eight prosecutors will solely concentrate on prosecuting criminals who illegally carry guns. These prosecutors will use a federal gun statute to seek the longest possible sentence for these criminals. The goal is to not only keep criminals off the street , but also to keep them in jail longer.
Additionally the Attorney General's public awareness campaign slogan "Gun Crime Means Hard Time" will be taken to the streets of Dallas through billboards, posters and radio and television advertising.
Texas Exile is modeled after Project Exile, a program first developed in Richmond, Virginia to reduce gun crime. In 1997, Richmond had the second highest murder rate in the nation. To make their streets safe again, law enforcement began an intense effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
By taking advantage of these same federal statutes, Texas Exile ensures any convicted felon or drug trafficker caught with a gun will be sentenced to five years in prison. These sentences increase if the felon was involved in any criminal activity when arrested. Habitual violent offenders are essentially exiled from city streets, and potential offenders are discouraged by the threat of harsh prison terms.
Since the beginning of the program in Richmond, over 300 criminals have been convicted and removed from the streets. The murder rate has dropped by 33 percent and the rate of violent crime has decreased by almost 50 percent.
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