Project Exile


In 1998, Gary Mervis was asked to meet the Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of New York, Denise O'Donnell. At the meeting, Mervis learned about the highly successful Project Exile program that had been implemented in Richmond, Virginia by an Assistant United States Attorney. At that time, the Rochester community was desperately searching for a way to combat the crime and violence plaguing the community. Rochester's homicide rate was hovering around 70 homicides per year, giving Rochester the distinction of having the highest per capita homicide rate of any city in New York State. In addition, during the previous holiday season, three uniformed Rochester police officers were shot and wounded.

As a result of that meeting, Project Exile was implemented in the Rochester community on September 28, 1998. Project Exile operates under the direction of the Project Exile Advisory Board which is comprised of representatives from local, state and federal prosecutors, law enforcement, business representatives, clergy, and community organizations. Mervis has been pleased to serve as the Chairman of the Project Exile Advisory Board since its implementation. The Project Exile Advisory Board meets once per month throughout the year, at the Federal Building in Downtown Rochester, to share information and improve communications among those who are waging the battles against illegal guns and drugs in our community.

The Project Exile program has continued to grow and adapt through three administrations; four United States Attorneys for the Western District of New York; two Law Enforcement Liaisons; four FBI Special Agents in Charge; two County Executives; three District Attorneys; two Sheriffs; three Mayors; and four Chiefs of Police.

Under the leadership and direction of Camp Good Days' Partners Against Violence Everywhere (PAVE) Initiative, the Project Exile program in Rochester has been recognized and highlighted at various local, regional and national seminars and conferences, and has served as the impetus for other community-based initiatives such as the Rochester Youth Violence Partnership at the University of Rochester Medical Center, A Horse's Friend, The Rochester City School District Leadership Program, Homework Huddle, and Project T.I.P.S. (Trust, Information, Programs & Services), which includes community agencies and law enforcement personnel working in selected neighborhoods to rebuild trust amongst residents and share information.

Over the past 25 years, the Project Exile program has helped to remove thousands of illegal guns from the streets of Rochester and the homicide rate has never gone back to what it was before Project Exile was implimented.