Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
United States Department of Justice
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
New Brunswick, NJ
Thank you, Paul [Fishman]. I'm very pleased to be here.
I want to thank Paul for inviting me here today and for his leadership as U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. I know the recession has hit public safety agencies hard in the cities of this state. It's a credit to Paul - and to the police chiefs, county prosecutors, and other local, state, and federal leaders in New Jersey - that jurisdictions are working together - coordinating efforts and planning strategically - to address gang violence and the other crime problems so many communities are facing.
I also want to thank Bruce Kaplan and Matt Horace for their leadership and for the good work they're doing.
And I'd like to acknowledge the recently confirmed Director of our Bureau of Justice Assistance, Denise O'Donnell, who's with us today. Denise comes to the Office of Justice Programs from New York, where she served as the state's Deputy Director of Public Safety. She also spent a number of years as a federal prosecutor, including time as a U.S. Attorney. She brings rich experience from both the federal and state levels, and we're extremely glad to have her at OJP.
Before I go any further, let me also convey greetings from Attorney General Eric Holder - and his thanks to all of you for your commitment to fighting gangs in New Jersey. Today's training exemplifies the balanced approach to gang violence the Attorney General outlined when he issued his Anti-Violence Strategy, which I'll talk a little about in just a moment.
This is the 21st session offered as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods Anti-Gang training series, and I'm very proud of the support that our Bureau of Justice Assistance has provided for these sessions. Leading up to today, we've trained more than 5,400 sworn and non-sworn personnel across the nation.
You should know that today's training is bringing together the largest single number of registered attendees of any of the trainings. And I'm told it may be the largest event ever in New Jersey to bring together law enforcement, prevention, and intervention specialists. So you're all to be commended for your interest, your dedication, and your collaboration.
As I'm sure none of you needs to be reminded, this is a critical issue. The latest estimates from the National Youth Gang Survey show that more than 28,000 gangs are active in some 3,500 jurisdictions across the United States. About 731,000 people belong to those gangs. This is a huge - and complex - challenge.
Targeted enforcement of gun, gang, and drug laws is vital to dealing with the problem - but enforcement alone is not enough. We also need effective prevention and intervention programs, as well as services that help offenders coming out of prison make a successful transition back into society.
These elements - prevention, enforcement, and reentry - are the three legs of the three-legged stool on which a solid public safety strategy must rest. And they are the foundation of the Justice Department's approach to combating violence in our nation's communities, which the Attorney General set forth in his Anti-Violence Strategy.
Attorney General Holder has asked Paul and his 93 counterparts across the country to work with local and community partners to develop plans for addressing the violent crime problems in their districts. As Paul will be the first to tell you, solutions to those problems won't come from Washington - they'll come from engagement with local leaders and law enforcement professionals and community partners.
My agency - the Office of Justice Programs - is playing a role in facilitating that collaboration. Through our National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, we've helped to bring together federal, state, and local partners in several cities to develop strategies for addressing their youth and gang violence problems - again, building on the premise that the most effective approach to these challenges is a balanced approach.
A big part of our work - and this is one of our agency's key roles in the Anti-Violence Strategy - is helping communities find workable solutions to their crime problems. Our Assistant Attorney General, Laurie Robinson, created what we call the Evidence Integration Initiative to get a solid handle on what approaches work in preventing and reducing crime - and to make that information available to those of you working on the front lines.
As part of that, last week we launched an online Crime Solutions Resource Center called CrimeSolutions.gov. This is a clearinghouse of information about programs that work and that are promising in addressing crime. Each program even has an evidence rating that categorizes it as effective, promising, or showing no effects, based on available research. The site is searchable and it covers a range of topics - from prevention to courts and corrections to juveniles to law enforcement, and beyond.
Our goal is to help busy practitioners like all of you find out what approaches can work in your communities. This is our responsibility to you as your partner in public safety - and I can think of no better role for us in these challenging economic times than giving you the information you need to leverage your resources in the smartest possible way.
Again, I'm very pleased to be here today, and I'm proud to be supporting you in your work. On behalf of the Office of Justice Programs and the Department of Justice, I applaud your commitment to combating gang crime, and I'm grateful for all you do to keep our communities safe.
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