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Gonzales vows federal aid to fight New Orleans crime

From Terry Frieden
CNN

SPECIAL REPORT

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is promising federal help to police battling increasing crime in New Orleans.

Gonzales said he will immediately send 10 federal prosecutors from other locations to New Orleans to help prosecute federal firearms-, drug- and immigration-related violations.

The temporary assignment of prosecutors from the Justice Department in Washington and other locations is designed to provide needed assistance until nine assistant U.S. attorneys can be hired, trained and placed in the New Orleans office, he said Monday.

Gonzales announced funding for the new positions at a news conference with local officials at the Port of New Orleans.

In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will send four more agents to beef up the Violent Crime Impact Team, which combats gun crimes. Gonzales also committed the U.S. Marshals Service to dispatching four deputy marshals to supplement the fugitive task force in New Orleans.

Officials said that after an initial drop in crime in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, violent crime has spiked this summer, highlighted by the high-profile shooting death in June of five teens while riding in a vehicle.

In advance of President Bush's planned visit to New Orleans next week to mark the first anniversary of the devastating hurricane, Gonzales sought to highlight federal law enforcement assistance to the New Orleans area over the past year.

Justice Department figures show the federal government has made more than $20 million available to New Orleans and Orleans Parish to help rebuild the criminal justice system. Another $61 million was provided to the state of Louisiana for justice assistance grants and funds for law enforcement infrastructure damaged by Katrina.

New Orleans officials have complained that promised federal assistance to help the city to recover from Katrina's wrath has been slow in coming.

Federal officials have acknowledged that funding for Katrina assistance to Mississippi has been smoother and encountered fewer delays than has federal aid to Louisiana.

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