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Remarks of Laurie Robinson, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

White House Conference: Gang Violence Prevention and Crime Control – Learning from Successful Partnerships Around the Country
Panel - "From Boston to High Point: Getting New Anti-Gang Violence and Anti-Crime Partnerships Off the Ground"
Monday, August 24, 2009
Washington, DC

        Good morning.

        This is our first panel of the conference, and, appropriately, we're going to be talking about getting anti-gang and anti-crime partnerships off the ground. We'd like this discussion to center on three themes:

First, we want to talk about innovative approaches to fighting gangs and crime.
Second, we want to talk about what it takes to create community partnerships to support innovation, with law enforcement at the core.
Finally, we want to explore how we at the federal level can better support efforts at the local level – in other words, how can we be better partners?

        I want to thank all our panelists for being here today. They bring a wealth and diversity of experience in addressing the challenges of gangs and violence. I'd like to take a moment to briefly introduce them, then I'll give them a chance to say a few brief words. Then I'll kick off a discussion by asking a few questions.

        Our first panelist is Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey. Mayor Booker was elected in 2006. By July of 2008, Newark led the nation among large cities for reductions in shootings and murders. Part of his success is due to development of public/private partnerships that have helped make the city's parks and playgrounds safe.

        Our second panelist is David Kennedy. David is the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control and professor of anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. I'm sure many of you are familiar with his work in Boston on Operation Ceasefire in the 90s and on the High Point drug market strategy, both of which have helped to significantly reduce violent crime in those cities.

        Our third panelist is Mayor David Cicilline [Siss-uh-lean'] of Providence, Rhode Island. Since his election in 2002, one of his top priorities has been to get illegal guns off the streets, and Providence has seen crime drop to its lowest rate in 30 years under his leadership.

        Our fourth panelist is Dean Esserman. Chief of Police of Providence. Under his leadership, the Providence Police Department has helped to turn around the city's crime problems through targeted strategies that rely on partnerships with local agencies and community groups. Crime dropped 30 percent during his first five years as chief, and homicides have been cut in half.

        Our fifth panelist is Mayor Thomas Menino, now serving his fourth term as Mayor of Boston. He was also president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2002 to 2003. Public safety has been one of his signature issues. As part of his efforts, he created a Strategic Crime Council, which brings in public health agencies, schools, the housing authority, and other groups to address crime and to improve community outreach on public safety issues.

        Our sixth panelist is Mayor Larry Murphy from Oelwein, [Ole'-wine], Iowa. Mayor Murphy is in his fourth term. His community is profiled in the best-selling book, Methland: The Death and Life of a Rural Town, which recounts Oelwein's struggles with meth and the global forces behind it.

        Thank you all for being here today. Mayor Booker, we'll start with you. I'd like to throw out a few questions to our panelists to get the discussion going. But before I do, I notice that Mayor Booker's Director of Police, Garry McCarthy, is with us in the audience. Director McCarthy, I wonder if you'd like to add anything to Mayor Booker's remarks about why things have been working so well in your city.

        Thank you very much, Director McCarthy.

        I also see that Ed Davis, the Boston Police Commissioner, has joined us today. Chief Davis, thank you for being with us. Would you care to add anything to what Mayor Menino said about your efforts in Boston?

        Thank you, Commissioner Davis. We appreciate your being here to share your thoughts.

        Now let me turn to our panelists, and I'll start with a question for David Kennedy. David, the theme of this panel is getting innovative anti-gang and anti-crime partnerships off the ground. You've helped to launch many innovative initiatives to fight gangs and crime. What, in your experience, are the keys to a strong start? Are there any key relationships that absolutely must be developed? Also, is there anything that should be avoided?

        This question is for Mayor Menino and Superintendent Davis. Boston was the birthplace of the "call-in" approach back in the 90s, then the effort fell off a bit, and now it's picking up again. Is there a lesson there for other cities, particularly for those that have not yet started one of these intiatives?

        Here's one for the full group: What are the key partnerships that must be developed at the start in order for anti-crime initiatives to be successful?

        Mayor Booker, shootings and homicides have been dropping pretty steadily since you took office in 2006. Again, I'd like to know how you got started, in terms of both successes and challenges. And following on that, what role did community attitudes about crime play in your success, and have those attitudes changed over time?

        Mayor Cicilline, like your counterparts on the panel, your efforts have resulted in significant reductions in crime during your tenure. I wonder, what can the federal government do to better assist efforts like yours, particularly in the early stages? In terms of federal funding, is there a preference for broad-based funding or funding that targets specific initiatives or approaches?

        Mayor Murphy, with a population under 10,000, Oelwein is clearly different from Boston, Newark, or Providence. What challenges do you face that are different from those in big cities, and how do you address those challenges? Also, what advantages do you have as a smaller city? Finally, I'd be curious to know if, in your opinion, there are any similarities between large and small cities?


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