THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
PROJECT SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS
SECOND ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE
FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2003
Thank you, Paul, for that introduction and for your many years of service to our nation. Through your work with the Congress and the Department of Justice, you have done so much to advance criminal justice in this country, and you are continuing to contribute to the cause of justice through Project Safe Neighborhoods.
I also want to pay tribute to the other two speakers on this panel. Richard Nedelkoff, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, brings a rich history in criminal justice planning and administration on the state level, making him a major asset to the work of the Office of Justice Programs. He also brings a particular sensitivity to the concerns of our state and local partners, so critical to the PSN effort.
And to Brad Buckles, my newest colleague, the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - all the U. S. Attorneys here know that ATF has always seemed like a part of the family, and their efforts are also critical to the success of PSN. We’re delighted now to welcome Brad and ATF officially to the Justice family.
I’m pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this second national PSN conference and to be here in Philadelphia, where the momentum for Project Safe Neighborhoods began a little less than two years ago. At the Office of Justice Programs, we’re proud to be a partner with all of you in this major Presidential and Attorney General initiative and to be able to provide significant financial and program support for this innovative approach to increasing community safety.
I’ve been asked to talk briefly about the substantial resources that the Department and the Administration are committing to PSN. In this time of national crisis, when our federal government resources must be concentrated to the maximum degree possible on our nation’s fight against terrorism, President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have nonetheless sought over $900 million over three years for Project Safe Neighborhoods, to combat gun violence on our streets and in our neighborhoods. They have done so because they fully recognize the significant threat posed to our citizens by violent predators - and they know that an aggressive, broad-based response by law enforcement, in partnership with the community at large, can significantly reduce that threat.
The commitment this investment represents, at a time when federal resources are so tight, cannot be understated. These funds are being directed where they’ll have the greatest impact on reducing gun violence in our communities. They’re being used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, and develop and promote efforts to involve and support community residents in becoming agents of change in their own communities.
Under the PSN initiative, for example, we’ve awarded $63 million through the Community Gun Violence Prosecution Program to help state and local governments hire nearly 600 new gun prosecutors in areas with a high incidence of gun violence. Funds are provided directly to prosecutors, to hire assistants to focus on cases that involve violent crimes committed with guns, and other violations of gun statutes that involve drug trafficking and gang-related crimes.
Through an open solicitation, we’re awarding another $10 million to help communities take other actions to reduce gun violence. The new grants under our Reducing Community Gun Violence Program will fund locally crafted, innovative responses to gun violence.
Communities will use these funds for a wide range of gun violence reduction efforts, including prevention, community outreach, education, enforcement, adjudication, supervision programs, and other innovative projects.
We’re now in the process of making grants to implement the very critical community outreach aspect of the Project Safe Neighborhood strategy -- because it’s important to deter, as well as to detain. We’re awarding a total of $15 million to local partners in each of the 94 districts to implement the media outreach and community engagement component of the strategy. These efforts will aggressively promote the message that all gun-related violence will be met with strict enforcement and swift and certain punishment. At the same time, community residents will be encouraged to work with local, state, and federal law enforcement to address gun-related crime in their neighborhoods. In addition, these grants will support efforts to promote gun safety.
And because we recognize the need for government to be fully accountable to the taxpayers for the way we make use of their dollars, it is imperative that we measure the actual outcome of our efforts. So we’re also in the process of making grant awards to help each of the 94 federal districts evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy they have developed. We can then share information with all of you about the strategies that have been most effective, which will further improve our performance around the country.
To support strategic planning and accountability, we’re awarding a total of $15 million to develop local research partnerships in each federal district. The research partnerships will analyze firearms-related violent crime data, provide crucial information to your strategic planning process, and measure the effectiveness of your strategy in reducing gun-related violent crime. We must always keep our eyes on the prize: we want above all to achieve the outcome of actually reducing the threat of violent crimes, and making our communities safer - as has been accomplished so dramatically right here in Philadelphia.
Richard Nedelkoff will provide more information in a moment on the grants which are being administered by BJA.
But our Weed and Seed Office is also an active player in PSN, and our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is supporting Project Safe Neighborhoods, as well. OJJDP and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are providing $20 million to support Project Sentry.
This initiative is dedicated to helping communities solve problems related to juvenile gun crimes. Each of the communities receiving Project Sentry funds will decide how best to do that, whether it is through new prosecutors, enhanced law enforcement, or other creative ideas to target gun crimes committed by youth. Communities can also use this money to find and prosecute adults who give or sell guns to juveniles.
For 2003, President Bush has requested additional funding to further implement and sustain the PSN initiative. Both the President and Attorney General Ashcroft are working to ensure that core law enforcement functions and major Administration initiatives such as Project Safe Neighborhoods receive the support they need to ensure the safety of our citizens.
As the Attorney General said in launching the PSN initiative, "The Department of Justice is dedicated to improving the tools that we have to reduce criminal access to guns, prosecuting those who violate our nation's gun laws, and ensuring a safe learning environment for our children." We will continue to support Project Safe Neighborhoods and build on the critical foundation you have laid over the past two years in reducing gun violence and increasing community safety; and we’ll help you learn how to leverage other DOJ funds already at your disposal, to maximize your effectiveness.
At the same time, while funding has had a significant impact in supporting the implementation of PSN, we know that the real key to improving the safety of our neighborhoods is the coordination and close collaboration among the federal, state, and community participants. For example: a dozen years ago, Paul McNulty and others at DOJ launched Operation Weed and Seed. Weed and Seed remains the flagship of our collaborative community revitalization efforts, and many of you are closely involved in those efforts. As you know, though, community residents cannot hope to revitalize their neighborhood until it is safe to walk its streets. PSN is the vehicle to enable these residents to take back those neighborhoods - and it, too, must be approached collaboratively.
I look forward to continuing to work with all of you - my federal brethren, our partners at the state and local levels, and our community partners - to secure the safety of our neighborhoods. Thank you so very much for everything you do, every day, toward that end.