By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Federal, state and local officials are joining forces in an attempt to stop gun crimes in Baltimore.

This initiative, which is called “Project Exile,” isn’t a new one, but officials are saying what’s different this time around is the money. Officials say more resources will be available to target repeat offenders and people committing gun crimes and charge them in federal court.

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“Through this initiative, we look to bring cases involving illegal firearms that have clear connections to violence and I believe this effort has been worthwhile,” says Jonathan F. Lenzner, acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland. “This collaborative firearm prosecution effort it’s focused on prosecuting individuals who are responsible for driving the violence in Baltimore.”

Homicides have increased in Baltimore in 2021. According to data from the Baltimore City Police Department, there were 119 homicides as of May 26, 2020, compared to 126 homicides by May 26th of 2021.

Officials say funding for Project Exile came from the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth & Victim Services, and it will provide funding for prosecutors who will focus on bringing charges against offenders in Federal Court.

“I authorized the funding for these additional prosecutors through the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services. This is an important step, and we are committed to doing everything we can to address the violent crime crisis in our largest city,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the joint effort sends a message that crime will not be tolerated.

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“I want to be very clear that when it comes to victim crimes in homicides and shootings, we have a very clear distinction in my office and then the federal government. We are going to hold you to account,” she said.

There’s also a billboard campaign to let people know about this plan to crack down on gun crimes. But officials said there will also be a focus on getting resources like job training into communities as a way to prevent an entry into a life of crime.

Dorothy Cunningham’s grandson, Markell Hendricks, was murdered in 2019.

“Mark was coming home from school, and he stopped to speak to a friend that was standing on the other side, so these guys got out of the car and was shooting at someone else, so the person that they were shooting at got shot in his hip, but Markell got shot in his head,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham has witnessed the announcement of numerous crime prevention programs, and for a family that is still dealing with an unsolved murder, she says she hopes Project Exile will work.

“It’s a pain that will never ever go away. It could be 20 years from now if I’m still on this earth it could feel to me like yesterday because the pain never goes away,” she said.

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Ava-joye Burnett