Pubdate: Sat, 10 Jul 2004
Source: Tucson Citizen (AZ)
Copyright: 2004 Tucson Citizen
Author: Brad Branan, Tucson Citizen


Efforts by the group targeting violent crime in Tucson have led to 37
people being charged.

[photo] Norma Jeam Gargasz, Tucson Citizen Attorney General John
Ashcroft discusses at the University of Arizona the recently announced
federal initiative aimed at reducing crime in 15 U.S. communities.
Tucson is one of the 15.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday praised early efforts by
a federal task force to remove repeat offenders from Tucson's most
violent neighborhoods.

The Violent Crime Impact Team's work led to charges for 37 people,
mostly weapons violations, between May 17 and June 27, its first six

The task force, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, is focusing on gun traffickers and ex-felons who have guns.

"The outcomes are very, very pleasing," Ashcroft said at a news
conference at the University of Arizona. "We've got the right
enthusiasm and cooperation among local law enforcement."

Ashcroft met with task force members for about an hour at UA. The
visit was part of a two-day swing through the state that included a
tour of U.S. Border Patrol operations.

The Justice Department will monitor the task force's progress each
month, Ashcroft said.

"This is not a program we should have to wait eight years to see if it
makes a difference," he said. "We should be able to see by the end of
this summer and in the fall period."

Tucson is one of 15 U.S. cities chosen this year to get task forces.
The Tucson group was announced after a Tucson Citizen story in May
identified the city's most violent areas. The story raised awareness
of a need for the task force, an ATF official said at the time.

Tucson's proximity to the Mexican border provides unique challenges in
combating violent crime, Ashcroft said. During his border tour, he
said he saw a vehicle impounded because it had contained cocaine and a
tunnel once used for drug trafficking.

The Justice Department, which is providing four prosecutors and two
ATF agents for the Tucson task force, expects the program to last six
months. The task force is made up of 18 to 25 federal, state, county
and local law officials.

The praise Ashcroft gave to the Tucson task force suggests the program
could run longer, said Marvin Richardson, assistant special agent in
charge at the Phoenix ATF office.

The task force wants to remove repeat offenders from three areas: the
Miracle Mile-North Oracle Road corridor, part of the South Side
running along Sixth Avenue Avenue and part of the East Side running
along 29th Street.

The task force has led to weapons violation convictions of three
people sentenced to an average of nine years in prison, Richardson

The task force also arrested Michael Sean McHugh, one of 52 repeat
offenders responsible for most of the crime in the three targeted
areas, said Sigberto F. Celaya, resident agent in charge in the Tucson
ATF office. Probation officials on the task force helped identify
repeat offenders.

Court records show that McHugh, 33, was arrested on suspicion of theft
and burglary when he was 19 and has faced numerous other charges since
then. He has been convicted of theft and drug charges.

McHugh, who lives in the East Side area under task force scrutiny, was
booked into the Pima County Jail last month on 14 counts including
weapons possession and kidnapping.
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