(Photo by Scott Welton, Staff)
Neal Frazier of Cape Girardeau began work Thursday as Mississippi County's community gun violence prosecutor, replacing Gregory Spencer whose last day was Wednesday. Spencer, who announced his resignation in July, said he was moving to be closer to his family.
The position was created as part of President George W. Bush's initiative to reduce gun crime nationwide, Project Safe Neighborhoods, with the goal of discouraging firearm-related violence with swift criminal prosecution. By providing U.S. Department of Justice grants to hire additional prosecutors - particularly for counties in need - the program aims to increase prosecution of these types crimes. Raffety's office received notification they were approved for the grant in February 2002.
"Mississippi County was very fortunate to be awarded the Project Safe Neighborhoods grant by the United States Department of Justice. We have almost three years remaining of this four-year grant, and with the addition of Neal Frazier I believe Mississippi County citizens will see a noticeable difference in the success of our investigations and convictions of criminals, particularly those who commit crimes with firearms," said Jennifer Raffety, Mississippi County prosecuting attorney. "In my five years as prosecutor in Mississippi County, I have always enjoyed a close working relationship with the county law enforcement agencies and I anticipate that this relationship will continue to improve as Mr. Frazier brings his experience and enthusiasm to my office."
A 1999 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Frazier has a solid background in the practice of criminal law having most recently been employed by the Missouri State Public Defenders office in Jackson from May 2000 until Aug. 4.
Already on Frazier's plate as community gun violence prosecutor are at least two murders and five other shootings currently pending.
"I am excited about the opportunity to serve as Mississippi County's assistant prosecutor. I know that this county has seen a disturbing series of shootings this year and that it is vital that we stop this cycle of escalating retaliation before it spirals even further out of control," Frazier said. "With the hard work of our law enforcement officers and the cooperation of the good people of Mississippi County, I am confident that we can get the guns off the streets and make Mississippi County a better place to live, work and raise our families.
In crimes involving the use of a firearm, defendants can face additional charges such as armed criminal action which can add three years to life in prison to the sentence. Officials estimate about a quarter of violent assaults involve the use of a firearm.
Frazier will also be assisting Raffety with other cases when not handling firearm-related crimes.
Anyone with questions or who would like additional information about Missouri firearms laws are encouraged to contact their local prosecuting attorney's office.