Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
2006 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference DOJ Officials Panel
May 3, 2006
Thank you. I'm pleased to be part of this panel and to have the opportunity to talk about the role of the Office of Justice Programs in Project Safe Neighborhoods.
Our role in PSN is a very important one. In partnership with federal, state, and local justice agencies, OJP administers the PSN program on behalf of the Department of Justice. And we offer a full range of support to communities that are working to address gun violence.
First of all, we provide funding. Since PSN was initiated in 2001, OJP has awarded more than $250 million. That money has helped to hire some 540 state and local prosecutors.
It also has gone toward efforts to fight juvenile gun violence. Under Project Sentry, we've awarded almost $50 million to the districts to reduce gun crimes committed by youth. We've also funded research and outreach, as well as strategic planning and assessment activities. The districts have received almost $125 million for these efforts.
Congress did not appropriate any funds for state and local PSN grants in fiscal year 2005. Fortunately, we were able to identify funding to continue supporting critical PSN efforts.
Likewise, for FY 2006, the President had requested $74 million for PSN, but only $15 million was appropriated.
Training is another critical part of OJP's role. And here we've benefited from the services of our partners at the National District Attorneys Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and Michigan State University . Through them, we've made a host of training opportunities available to the PSN task forces.
The training topics range far and wide – from gun tracing and interdiction, to firearm statutes and search and seizure laws, to crime scene and evidence management. The American Prosecutors Research Institute administers much of the training through the Gun Violence Prosecution Program and the Drug Prosecution and Prevention Program, both of which are part of PSN. And I would add that the drug prosecution program now includes a piece on gang-related prosecutions.
Which brings me to where OJP, the Department, and the Administration are going with PSN.
Attorney General Gonzales has made fighting gangs one of his top priorities. Last year, he directed every U.S. Attorney to designate an anti-gang coordinator who would work with local partners to develop an anti-gang strategy. Every federal district now has submitted a plan to fight gang violence. And as you heard the Attorney General announce yesterday, we've just awarded almost $30 million in grants and training and technical assistance to support efforts under PSN to fight gang violence.
Anti-gang efforts are a major component of the PSN initiative that President Bush proposed in his budget request for FY 2007. The President's budget requests $395 million for PSN. The request includes $58 million for the critical State and Local Gun Violence Assistance Program, which supports PSN's state, local, and community partners in their efforts to combat violent gangs and gun crimes.
One of those efforts is our very successful Weed and Seed program, which is now operational in more than 300 communities nationwide.
Weed and Seed and PSN programs are already working hand-in-hand in many communities. In fact, the police department in Aurora, Colorado, just east of here, has been coordinating its PSN efforts closely with the Aurora Weed and Seed site. They're both participants in a gun violence prevention program that promotes alternatives to violence among at-risk youth.
We already have several resources in place to help communities deal with the threat of gangs.
One is the assistance we offer through the National Youth Gang Center. The Gang Center provides training and technical assistance to help communities develop gang prevention, intervention, and suppression activities. It also serves as a clearinghouse on gang-related information.
Another of our important prevention efforts is our Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, or G.R.E.A.T. G.R.E.A.T. uses law enforcement officers as instructors, and it provides a curriculum that those officers can use to teach kids how to avoid violence and delinquency. It's one of the innovative ways we're bringing together prevention and enforcement strategies.
We hope to announce a new round of G.R.E.A.T. awards later this month. In addition, we offer free training to law enforcement agencies that commit to teaching the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum in their communities' schools.
Our Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services also offer training to state and local law enforcement officers on responding to street gangs.
We've also developed and distributed information resources. We've supported the publication of guidebooks on prosecuting gang cases and drug-linked firearms cases. We've published a compilation of promising practices in combating gun violence. And through the Gun Violence Prosecution Program I mentioned earlier, we publish a newsletter that discusses trends and cases in firearms prosecutions.
And finally, we worked with the National Crime Prevention Council and the Ad Council to develop public service announcements as part of a national media campaign to reduce gun violence.
These efforts – public outreach, information, training, technical assistance, and funding – are all means to an end, the end being a comprehensive strategy to stop gun crime and gang violence. And this is the point I'd like to close on.
Strategic planning is critical to any gun crime and gang violence reduction effort. It's important that communities look beyond the PSN funding stream and consider all the resources – federal, state, and local – that are available.
To do this effectively, a community needs a well-documented strategy that incorporates proven approaches to preventing and reducing crime. Such a strategy can put you in a good position to compete for other funding, and it can help ensure that your program will be sustained for the long run.
In addition to providing training in strategic planning, we've helped to develop useful resources for communities. One good example is the community guide developed as part of the First Lady's Helping America's Youth initiative.
The guide offers tips on building partnerships and assessing needs and resources, and it provides information about program designs that address risky behaviors. You can find the guide at HelpingAmericasYouth.gov.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is a cornerstone of the Administration's crime-fighting efforts, and it's been successful because of the buy-in from community partners. I encourage all of you to think broadly when forming partnerships and developing strategies. Those strategies and those partners will help lead you to the resources you need.