FIREFIRE (Firearms Interdiction Regional Enforcement) is a multi-jurisdictional task force led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). Formerly established in 1994 under a state-sponsored program, FIRE became a Lake County HIDTA initiative in October, 1998.
Using combined resources of all participating agencies, FIRE identifies, actively investigates, and ultimately prosecutes criminals violating Federal firearm laws in order to reduce the amount of gun violence directly associated with gangs and drugs.
FIRE targets armed drug traffickers, firearm traffickers, individuals using firearms in crimes of violence, felons in possession of firearms, and prohibited persons possessing state handgun permits in Northwest Indiana.
Drug trafficking organizations reap huge profits from an inherently dangerous profession which requires protection in the form of firearms. Drug dealers employ individuals to illegally purchase firearms, leading to an increase in violent crime, including drive-by shootings and multiple homicides at a single known drug trafficking location.
FIRE cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office Gun Unit. The penalties for Federal firearm violations, especially with respect to recidivists, often exceed the penalty which might be imposed under the existing State laws. In 2006, FIRE cases resulted in 48 convicted felons sentenced to a combined total of 2,173 months of Federal imprisonment. Since 2004, five were sentenced to 10 or more years, seven sentenced to 15 or more years and two sentenced to more than 20 years. In 2006, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana had more convictions for felons in possession of firearms and straw purchasers than most major cities in the United States.
Within 48 hours of FIRE being notified of a subject arrested by local police on firearms violations, FIRE evaluates the criminal history and the probable cause used for the arrest. FIRE conducts a videotaped interview at the local jail while the arrestee is still in custody using unique interviewing protocols and procedures, developed specifically for targeting firearm and drug trafficking investigations. Most times simple firearm arrests have a drug nexus. By obtaining confessions and cooperation during an interview, FIRE is often able to gain an inroad into information on organization leaders and/or assistance in the purchase of evidence which is used to perfect Federal charges against the leaders of a trafficking organization.
Northwest Indiana law enforcement agencies also benefit from FIRE by periodic no-cost training sessions conducted in firearms enforcement through the Project Safe Neighborhoods program. On August 21, 2007, a member of the FIRE initiative instructed seventy-three (73) Federal, State, and Local law enforcement personnel in investigative tools in recognizing and documenting armed offenders who are engaged in illicit gang, gun, and drug activity. In addition, this training provided the audience with educational and pertinent information pertaining to the Lake County HIDTA and how additional assistance can be provided in addressing the aforementioned issues.
The history that follows a firearm's serial number, the imprint of a bullet casing, and the Federal gun laws which provide mandatory sentences for using firearms in the furtherance of drug trafficking crimes, make the FIRE initiative a natural partner in the fight against drug trafficking.
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