Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Utah's U.S. Attorney John Huber speaks at the 10th annual Utah National Security and Anti-Terrorism Conference at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Huber said on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, he wants local law enforcement to strategically use his office to reduce violent crime in the state.

SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber is well aware of the recent violence that has plagued the Magna area.

That's because he is a Magna resident.

For Huber, he says partnering with local and state law enforcement agencies to reduce violent crime in Utah's neighborhoods is a top priority.

"Every person deserves to live in a safe neighborhood," he said Thursday. "How much should we have to tolerate? Why should the U.S. attorney have to tolerate a gang member shooting a 17-year-old and state employee a block from my home in broad daylight? We can't close our eyes to it. Law enforcement partners tell me they need my help to bring justice to these people who would bring violence to our neighborhoods."

Huber spoke during an informal roundtable discussion with members of the media to talk about some of his office's accomplishments in 2017 and what goals he has for the current year.

Up until two years ago, Huber said violent crime had been steadily declining in Utah. And while the state's homicide rate is still low compared to much of the nation, aggravated assault and violent crime in general are both up, he said.

In 2017, federal prosecutors filed 144 cases involving gang members in Utah, Huber said. For 2018, he said he is working with local law enforcement agencies to continue the crackdown on gangs.

Recent violence on Salt Lake County's west side has mostly involved juvenile gang members who are too young to face federal prosecution. But Huber said his office is working to go after the older gang members, or the ones who are really in charge.

"We can go after organizations. We can go after the old guys, the ones who are the shot callers," he said. "You take out a shot caller, the young thug who is trying to be tough guy and prove himself, he doesn't have anyone to prove himself to."

Also in 2017, Huber's office filed 204 cases of federal firearms violations — the most in about 10 years. The U.S. attorney admitted the high number is due in part to his office asking local agencies to file cases federally.

"We're open. Bring us the referrals that will help your community," he said.

Huber said when his office decides which cases to pursue federally, he looks at the ones that will have the biggest impact on crime. The U.S. Attorney's Office currently has about a 90 percent conviction rate in Utah, Huber said, with about 80 percent of those convicted are being sent to prison.

As an example, Huber noted the case of Jarvis Charlie Cuch, 28, of Fort Duchesne, who faces up to 12 years in federal prison when he is sentenced later his month on firearms convictions.

"This guy is a one-man crime wave. … He's a disaster," Huber said. "This is the type of guy we go after. … If you can take a guy like Jarvis Cuch out of the Uintah Basin for 12 years, there will be a conspicuous sigh of relief among the residents of Roosevelt and Vernal. Because this guy is a wrecking ball.

"If you take out a felon with a gun who is sitting in your neighborhood, and now they're going to go to federal prison, that makes the neighborhood safer. That's the concept," he added.

On the issue of immigration, Huber said his office filed 300 cases for illegal re-entry into the country last year.

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"I'm not talking about 'Dreamers.' I'm not talking about someone who is trying to earn a living and raise a family. I'm talking about criminals who come into this country unlawfully, that are deported and come back," he said. "The people we prosecute on illegal re-entry cases, we don't find them in their home, we don't find them at their job, we find them in the county jail because they're there on a new offense, or they're there for skipping bail (or) they're there for past offenses. These people have no business being in our country and have no business victimizing us.

"We do not go after people who come here and otherwise want to abide by our rules. We're talking about crooks, thugs, abusers who hurt people and even hurt members of their own community. Those are the ones we go after," Huber said.

He said he would like the U.S. Attorney's Office to be used strategically to help solve local crime problems.

"Our goal is to bring down the violent crime rate," he said.