Two Warrick County men are facing federal charges after a project to increase safety in local neighborhoods.

United States Attorney Josh Minkler and Trevor Velinor, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Columbus Field Division, announced last week the results of an anti-violence initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). The goal of PSN, working together with federal, state and local law enforcement, is to reduce the number of criminal homicides and non-fatal shootings in the Evansville area.

Joseph Byers, Jr., 35, of Boonville, and Justin Helsley, 27, Newburgh, are two of twelve individuals facing charges after the ATF sent a surge of resources to Evansville between July 24 and Sept. 24, 2018. During this time period, five additional ATF agents and Task Force Officers were assigned to the Evansville ATF office. These additional agents and officers teamed up with Evansville police officers to aggressively pursue firearms cases in Evansville.

"Focusing our law enforcement resources on the most violent in our society will reduce crime, save lives and help make our neighborhoods safer," said Minkler. "Those who choose to terrorize Southwestern Indiana with gun violence should know ahead of time, federal law enforcement is watching and will respond with federal resources."

The United States Attorney Evansville Division team led by Deputy Chief Todd Shellenbarger has worked to target the area's most violent and habitual felons for federal prosecution. The focus has yielded more than 33 federal firearms cases in 2018, 22 of which were based in the Evansville PSN district. These cases were investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Evansville Police Department, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department, the Indiana State Police and the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office.

"We have forged and strengthened our cooperative efforts with the goal of removing violent individuals from the streets and returning our community to its rightful owners, those living, working and raising families there. These arrests represent just the first step in that continuing work," Trevor Velinor, Special Agent in Charge for ATF's Columbus Field Division, said. "We take pride in having great relationships with other law enforcement agencies, including our federal partners. When we all work together, it makes our communities much safer. This latest effort only reinforces what can be accomplished when we all work together."

In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District's response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the office's firm commitment to prosecuting those who engage in violent crime using firearms.

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