Justice Department officials are considering a merger of the Criminal Division’s Gang Unit and its Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.
The move would eliminate some overlap, though Justice officials said it’s too early in their internal discussions to say what effect a merger would have on the individual missions of the sections or their leadership.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer told Main Justice last week that he and his staff were taking a “hard look” at division resources, but he emphasized that no decision has been made.
“It’s very important to get the input of the career lawyers, but we’re taking a look, and at the end of the day, we want to do what will result in the most efficient, effective use of our resources,” Breuer said during a Friday interview.
The Gang Unit was established as a standalone section in 2007 to target major local, national and international gangs. Its emphasis has been on violent street gangs involved in narcotics and weapons trafficking.
The Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, by contrast, is best known for dismantling the Mafia in the U.S. and has more recently focused on sophisticated international criminal networks involved with financial and cyber crimes.
The Gang Unit’s 12 prosecutors build nationwide strategies for targeting gang-related crime. The unit works closely with U.S. Attorneys to prosecute cases. It also works with agents and analysts at the Gang Targeting, Enforcement and Coordination Center and the National Gang Intelligence Center, both in Virginia.
The Gang Unit chief, P. Kevin Carwile, came from the organized crime section, where he was a deputy to Bruce Ohr, the longtime head of the section.
The organized crime section, with 25 prosecutors, oversees the work of the department’s 21 organized crime strike force units, which are housed in U.S. Attorneys’ offices throughout the country, from Syracuse to San Francisco. While the strike forces have focused on traditional organized crime, such as La Cosa Nostra, the department has shifted the strike forces’ top priority to fighting international organized crime.
During the Bush administration, as officials were formulating a new organized crime strategy, it became clear that some of the strike forces were taking on work outside of their original mandate, such as gang and gun cases. The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Council pushed for a more international focus. Last October, then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden told a group of strike force chiefs in Washington that they were to “lead the charge” against international criminal groups.
Breuer said he expected that more resources would be directed to the effort in coming years.
“No one is saying to ignore traditional organized crime, but I think there is a sense now more than ever before that we need to be focusing on international organized crime. That’s what my own [Organized Crime and Racketeering Section] is doing. We’re taking a hard look within the Criminal Division.”
The merger would be the second major reorganization of the division on Breuer’s watch. Last year, Congress endorsed the merger of the division’s Domestic Security Section and Office of Special Investigations. The new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section is waiting for final approval by the Office of Management and Budget.