PSN: Western District of Virginia (PSN-WDVA)

The Western District of Virginia (WDVA) comprises approximately sixty percent of the land area in the Commonwealth of Virginia and 2.2 million of its citizens. The district covers a large, diverse geographic area. While the northern corner is less than fifty miles from Washington, D.C., Lee County, the western tip of the district, is farther west than Detroit and is closer to six other state capitols than it is to Richmond.  The WDVA encompasses seven separate federal divisions, including Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Danville, Abingdon, and Big Stone Gap.  Roanoke is considered the “headquarters” of the WDVA.

In recent years, violent crime has soared in Roanoke, Danville, and Lynchburg, Virginia.  For example, in 2016 in Danville, the homicide rate spiked from an average of four murders per year to a total of 16.  Per capita, this homicide rate exceeds that of major Virginia urban areas, like Richmond and Hampton Roads.  Local and state law enforcement personnel attribute this violence to increased national street gang activity, which is consistent with statewide crime trends.  According to the Virginia Gang Investigators Association, there may be over 200 gangs in the Commonwealth of Virginia with over 10,000 members.   Moreover, in recent years, Roanoke has ranked, per capita, as one of the most violent cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia and has seen a dramatic increase in opioid overdose deaths in the last two years.   Like Danville and Roanoke, the city of Lynchburg has also experienced a recent increase in gang violence, and local police attribute the almost tripling of the city’s homicide rate in 2018 to gang shootings.  In fact, the historically most violent gang in Danville has started emerging in Lynchburg.  Recent investigations also show a link between the flow of narcotics between Danville and Lynchburg.

In response to this rise in violent crime, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia has created a collaborative approach to reducing gun and gang violence in this district based on the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.  Called Project Community Justice, the United States Attorney’s PSN program is focused on the cities of Danville, Roanoke, and Lynchburg, where federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have employed evidence-based and intelligence-led approaches to identifying the most violent gangs and offenders, and has deployed its combined resources to prevent, interdict, and suppress violent criminal acts by targeted offenders in those areas.  The Strategic Action Plan more fully describes the WDVA violent crime reduction efforts, and the United States Attorney’s Office focus on partnerships, targeted enforcement, and accountability in Danville, Roanoke, and Lynchburg.

The United States Attorney’s Office appreciates, however, that violent crime cannot be solved through law enforcement efforts alone.  Recognizing that the involvement of local government leaders, social service providers, neighborhood leaders, and members of the faith community are also essential for a successful PSN program, the United States Attorney’s Office provides its PSN grant funds, in part, to develop and foster community partners who are involved in crime prevention and offender intervention and rehabilitation efforts, especially those targeted at at-risk youth and gang intervention efforts. 

In order to administer its PSN grant funds, the United States Attorney has selected individuals to serve as members of an independent Grants Committee.  The Committee is chaired by Tim Heaphy, a former United States Attorney for the WDVA, and is comprised of former law enforcement personnel and community outreach experts.  None of the members are current federal employees, and no member will be eligible to apply for or receive PSN funding.  This Grants Committee has selected the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, Inc. (VACP) to serve as its Fiscal Agent for these funds. 


Winter Conferences
February 5-7, 2025
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August 25-28, 2024

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