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Feds and local law enforcement in Marion County use federal gun laws to target violent crime

Joe Byrnes
U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said Ocala and Marion County provide an example of local law enforcement working well with the federal officials to reduce violent crime.

The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida singled out Ocala and Marion County on Wednesday as an example of local law enforcement working well with federal officials to reduce violent crime.

Roger Handberg said they've targeted the "drivers of violent crime" by pursuing federal firearms convictions.

"Working together we start by using the best available information to focus our efforts narrowly on the most violent offenders," Handberg said during a press conference. "Once those violent offenders have been identified, we use available statutory tool, every single one we have in our arsenal, to hold them accountable."

Since July 2018, federal prosecutors say 60 defendants have been charged in firearms cases and so far 49 have been sentenced to a combined 388 years in prison.

In Ocala, Police Chief Mike Balken says preliminary stats show a double-digit percent decrease in violent crime last year.


The press conference came just a few hours before the Tennessee funeral of Tyre Nichols, an unarmed man beaten to death by Memphis police officers.

Balken said Nichols' death was "alarming to any law enforcement officer in the country."

"I can tell you," he added, "the men and women here at the Ocala Police Department -- and I know, our brothers and sisters at the Sheriff's Office -- operate at a different level. It is unacceptable. It is inexcusable. And every one of those officers needs to go to prison. And I'm sure we'll see that."

Balken argued that the number of bad actors in law enforcement is minuscule compared to any other profession.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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