Project Exile: Still the Model for Firearms Crime Reduction Strategies

Project Exile was, by most accounts, one of the most successful violent crime reduction strategies in the United States. The initiative started in February 1997 and was a coordinated effort between the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Richmond Police Department (RPD), the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), to target felons carrying firearms and prosecute them in federal court where they would receive stiffer sentences, no bail, and no early release. As a result, at the end of 1998, firearms-related homicides had decreased almost 40 percent in Richmond, Virginia.

Now that Project Exile is nearly 15 years old, is it still a useful model for law enforcement executives to employ? Did other cities similar to Richmond ever replicate the Project Exile model successfully? This article attempts to answer these questions and interviews several significant participants in the implementation and management of the Project Exile program in Richmond to obtain their current perspectives of the program.