MONDAY, JULY 21, 2003


I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today. I’d like to make special mention of two dear friends of this group, one of whom is with us today – two of your own colleagues – who, we anticipate, are soon to take on critical roles at the federal level.

Sue Mencer, currently the Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety and a former FBI agent, has been nominated by President Bush to serve, subject to Senate confirmation, as the Director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, now at the Department of Homeland Security. This is the office, formerly a part of my agency, the Office of Justice Programs, which provides training and equipment funds for state and local first responders, and whose function is critical to law enforcement. We are delighted that a person as competent as Sue will be taking the helm of this important agency.

And I’d also like to congratulate Domingo Herraiz, currently the Director of the Ohio Criminal Justice Planning Agency. Domingo has been one of the real stars of the NCJA group of State Administering Agency Directors, and we are delighted that the President has announced his intent to nominate Domingo, again subject to Senate confirmation, to replace Richard Nedelkoff as Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, within OJP. We can’t wait for Domingo to join us, and lend his considerable expertise, insight and creativity to our efforts. I know he will be a tremendous help to all of you.

I am gratified to see a close relationship developing between NCJA, IJIS, and the JISP – as partnership is the theme of my remarks today. For almost three decades, OJP and NCJA have worked together with a critical purpose: to ensure that our nation’s criminal justice system operates fairly, effectively, and efficiently, and to protect the safety of the public.

Building – and sustaining – such partnerships has never been more important than it is now. Today, our criminal justice administrators and policy makers face unprecedented challenges posed by terrorism, high-tech crime, and shrinking state budgets.

Recognizing these challenges, the Office of Justice Programs is working to help state and local criminal justice practitioners develop new partnerships to solve crime-related problems, better share criminal intelligence and other information, and leverage funding to support these efforts.

In doing so, we’re using the lessons learned from our premier partnership initiative – Weed and Seed. As you probably know, this comprehensive, community-based approach to reducing crime and rehabilitating neighborhoods, which began a dozen years ago in only a few sites, is now operating in almost 300 communities throughout the country.

The Weed and Seed communities that have been the most successful in sustaining positive change have been those that have been able to maintain broad community partnerships to support law enforcement, human services, and economic initiatives, and to pool resources from a variety of federal, state, local, and private sources.

At OJP, we’re using the lessons learned from the most successful Weed and Seed communities, and applying this partnership approach to new initiatives to address crime-related problems in our communities. One example is our offender reentry initiative.

The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative was created last year to address the risk to public safety posed by criminal offenders who return to their communities following incarceration. As you know, many offenders are released from prison with little more than $50.00 and a bus ticket. Many of these offenders also face a combination of “not in my back yard” attitudes and government restrictions that limit their ability to get a job, find a place to live, or go to school. And in today’s environment, legislatures are trying to reduce correctional budgets by devising early-release schemes – so we’ll see even more than today’s annual 600,000 releasees.

With few resources and often few skills, it’s no wonder that these returning offenders soon turn back to what they know – a life of crime. Without forceful and sustained community effort, released offenders – and particularly violent offenders – will certainly remain a threat to their communities.

The Reentry Initiative is an unprecedented collaborative approach to better supervise and safely reintegrate returning offenders into their communities. It’s supported by OJP in partnership with 11 other federal agencies, including the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs. This federal partnership, in turn, supports partnerships in each state between the Department of Corrections and community coalitions, and includes a range of services for returning offenders, such as job placement, substance abuse treatment, and housing assistance. At the same time, strict monitoring takes place, including electronic monitoring and periodic drug testing.

Make no mistake – we are engaged in this effort as part of our primary mission – to assist you in protecting the public from dangerous predators. This population is the greatest threat to public safety in your communities, recidivating at a rate of 67% in the first 3 years following their release from prison.

Through this initiative, we’re funding 100 adult and juvenile re-entry projects throughout the country, bringing together disciplines that are not accustomed to working together, but none of which can be successful alone in dealing with this difficult population.

While most of these projects are just getting off the ground, some forward-thinking communities have programs already at work. For example, the Fort Wayne/Allen County, Indiana, controlled reentry program is a national model whose efforts have already made an impact. During the first 22 months of its operation, only 12.5 percent of the 200 violent offenders who came through the program committed another offense, compared to a 67 percent rate before the program.

This dramatic drop in reoffending has paid off in two ways. The community has been saved the costs associated with investigating and prosecuting these new offenses, and – the real payoff – its citizens are safer. Fewer crimes mean fewer victims. And Fort Wayne accomplished this by leveraging already available resources at the local level – not with additional federal grant money.

We intend that all of these reentry projects will build knowledge of what works best regarding the effective reentry of serious and violent offenders. As we measure the success of the customized efforts developed in various communities, we can determine what combinations of interventions work best to turn former felons into productive members of society, thereby protecting our citizens from would-be predators.

We consider the research community to be a critical partner in ensuring public safety. We recently awarded grants to universities in each federal district to serve as research partners for Project Safe Neighborhoods, the President’s and Attorney General’s innovative approach to reducing gun violence. The researchers will assist in this effort by analyzing firearms-related violent crime data, helping policy-makers develop strategies based on this scientific data analysis, and measuring the effectiveness of those strategies in reducing gun-related violent crime.

Project Safe Neighborhoods involves other partnerships, as well. Under the leadership of each United States Attorney, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors are working together more effectively to enforce gun laws, apprehend gun criminals, and prosecute them fully.

The media and the community also are important partners in these efforts. As part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, we’ve provided funding for efforts to:
• aggressively promote the message that all gun-related violence will be met with strict enforcement and swift and certain punishment;
• encourage community residents to work with local, state, and federal law enforcement to address gun-related crime in their neighborhoods;
• and support efforts to promote gun safety.

OJP also is a partner with the states in an unprecedented effort to improve community safety by expanding the use of DNA technology. I believe the expansion of the use of DNA technology will be the most significant development in criminal justice in this century.

As you know, DNA technology has forever changed the way police investigate cases, collect crime scene evidence, and identify suspects. Better use of DNA evidence holds tremendous potential for increasing our capacity to solve crimes, convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect the public. What fingerprints were to the 20th Century, DNA is to the 21st Century and beyond.

For this reason, President Bush this spring launched an ambitious federal initiative to advance the cause of justice through the use of DNA technology. We’re committing over $1 billion over the next 5 years to support this major DNA initiative. These funds will be used in part to help eliminate the backlog in analyzing DNA samples for serious violent offenses within 5 years, committing over $90 million just in the first year to backlog reduction.

Our National Institute of Justice estimates there are hundreds of thousands of backlogged rape and homicide case samples and collected but untested convicted offender samples. These backlogs will only get larger as states, appropriately, test more offenders and improve their crime scene DNA collection efforts.

For that reason, the initiative also aims to increase the capacity of federal, state, and local crime labs so that crime labs won’t be burdened with overwhelming backlogs in the future. The President’s Initiative calls for $60 million just in the first year of this 5-year plan, to help labs update their infrastructure, automate their DNA analysis procedures, and improve their retention and storage of forensic evidence.

We also plan to expand CODIS – the national DNA database – to hold 50 million DNA profiles – up from its current 1.7 million samples – and speed its ability to match crime scene evidence to convicted offender samples, from hours to microseconds. And we will stimulate research and development to make DNA testing faster, cheaper, portable, and easier to use. For example, with Justice Department funding, scientists are working to develop a “DNA chip” that uses nanotechnology to reduce analysis time from several hours to just minutes.

We’ll also work with other partners to develop training to ensure that police officers and medical personnel collect evidence properly, that prosecutors introduce and use DNA evidence successfully in court, that judges rule correctly on its admissibility during trials, and that medical and victim assistance personnel understand DNA technology and its implications.

And to determine the impact and cost benefits of the effective use of DNA evidence and technology, the initiative will also support demonstration projects in a number of local jurisdictions that will incorporate DNA training and evidence collection in their criminal justice operations.

As part of the President’s DNA initiative, we’ll also provide greater access to DNA technology to those who may have been wrongly accused or convicted. And we’ll provide education and outreach to promote the use of DNA to identify missing persons and bring closure to the families of victims.

In addition, we’re working with the Congress to encourage states to pass legislation to expand their DNA collection to include all convicted felons. In order to make full use of the power of DNA technology, DNA samples should be collected from all convicted felons and added to the national DNA database. Currently, only 29 states require DNA samples from all convicted felons. These states have much higher “hit rates” – matches of DNA evidence to profiles of convicted offenders in DNA databases – than other states that have more limited requirements.

For example, Virginia, which has been collecting DNA from all convicted felons since 1990, has a convicted offender database of more than 189,000 DNA profiles. As a result, they averaged 37 hits per month in 2002. Of the 1,070 hits Virginia had as of last March, approximately 82 percent would have been missed if its database were limited to only violent offenders, instead of all convicted felons. Florida has had a similar experience. The fact is, many of the offenders matched with violent crime scene evidence are found to have only a burglary conviction on their record.

If your state isn’t currently collecting such data, I encourage you to work with your state legislators to pass legislation to expand your state’s DNA sample collection to include all convicted felons. At the same time, we’re working with the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and other Members of Congress to pass legislation that will allow all DNA samples lawfully collected under the laws of all the states to be included in CODIS.

On another very important topic: I know some of you attended this morning’s workshop and heard about OJP’s partnership effort to expand RISS – the Regional Intelligence Sharing System.

While technology development has been an important part of OJP’s agenda for the past several decades, in the aftermath of the September 11th attack on America, we’ve intensified our efforts to help state and local law enforcement respond to terrorism and other crimes by working to improve intelligence sharing, communication, and technology integration. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these three organizations being together for this conference.

The 9/11 terrorist attack on America served as a “wake-up call” for all of us at the federal level. It reminded us – all too graphically – that, to effectively ensure the security of our homeland, we’ve got to do a far better job of sharing terrorism intelligence and other information with state and local officials.

This led not only to the sea change initiated by the Attorney General and Director Mueller of the FBI, moving our focus from one of reaction to crime to one of prevention, but also to at least the beginnings of a sea change in the information sharing arena.

We fully recognize that state and local personnel are on the front lines of both the war on terrorism and the war on traditional crime. And we recognize that they need state-of-the-art intelligence, technology, and other tools to be able to respond quickly and effectively to any threat to our national security.

Over the past two years, we’ve worked with experts from throughout the country, including law enforcement practitioners, information management experts, and representatives of the private sector, to facilitate information-sharing among law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

We’ve also worked to enhance the interoperability of communications technologies to enable criminal justice personnel to do their jobs more effectively and safely. It is widely believed that, had the New York police and fire departments had interoperable radio equipment on 9/11, we may not have lost so many valiant firefighters who rushed to assist others, but couldn’t receive critical radio updates.

This morning, some of you heard about the evolution of RISS. While RISS has been operating with significant funding from OJP since 1974, serving primarily state and local law enforcement, its usefulness as the backbone for secure electronic information sharing and data mining has grown to the point where it now enjoys broad participation by federal agencies as well.

We’ve now linked RISS and LEO – the FBI’s Law Enforcement Online system – and are coordinating the operations of these two systems. By linking the two systems, we’re able to provide a secure connection that will allow sensitive, but unclassified, homeland security information to be distributed quickly to all RISS and LEO users. It also will provide users with a secure e-mail system.

RISS has added connections not only to High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area – or HIDTA – sites, but also to several state agency networks: this means that a state can share its statewide intelligence data base with RISS member agencies across the country. The addition of each new database tied into the system has the effect of increasing, exponentially, the value of the network. And we’re now working to connect all the U.S. Attorneys’ Anti-Terrorism Task Forces to RISS.

In January, we launched a pilot project to further expand the utility of RISS in counterterrorism efforts. ATIX – the RISS Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange – is currently being tested in six states. This new system allows state and local officials who are responsible for homeland security and disaster preparedness to communicate and exchange homeland security, disaster, and terrorism alert information in a secure environment.

All those who must have a role in identifying threats to our safety, including private industry, will be partners in this effort. An official with Federal Express pointed out recently that corporate America owns 85% of the critical infrastructure in the country. So the private sector has both much at stake and a critical role to play in improving criminal intelligence and information sharing to ensure our national security.

Let me give you a hypothetical example of the impact these new information sharing systems can have in preventing crime:

Several recent chemical thefts have prompted a RISS-ATIX participant from the chemical industry to post a message on the RISS-ATIX bulletin board. A law enforcement officer reads the posted message on the board. From daily intelligence bulletins he’s receiving through the RISS network, the officer recognizes that the stolen chemicals pose a potential hazard for poisoning the water supply. The officer posts a reply to the message explaining the potential hazard.

Using the secure e-mail capability offered through RISS-ATIX, officials from the chemical industry alert public and private water utility executives of the potential hazards associated with the chemical; warning signs of contamination; and available treatments. Then, through the contact capability of RISS-ATIX, officials from emergency management, health, law enforcement and other government agencies are notified of the critical information and can be prepared to act immediately.

RISS serves as the communications backbone not only for ATIX, but also for another new initiative known as MATRIX – the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. MATRIX provides the capability – in real time – to store, analyze, and exchange sensitive terrorism-related and other criminal activity information among agencies within a state, among states, and between state and federal agencies.

The system will allow users secure access to criminal history, driver’s license, vehicle registration, and a host of other information, much of which is available in commercial databases, but which law enforcement does not usually have the capacity to access. More importantly, the system finds patterns in these various databases to limit a potentially huge field of suspects in a crime to just a few in a matter of seconds; or to identify people whose actions fit a pattern of terrorism identified by investigators.

Here’s an example: a major task force in New England, investigating a series of murders, ran queries on the MATRIX system, which found the initial suspect in Florida and was able to rule him out immediately. Then, additional suspects with the same name were identified through further MATRIX searches, along with family members and address information. As a result of this new information, warrants were served the next morning and a suspect was apprehended.

In another case, the task force received a lead regarding an individual who was believed to be an associate of one of the September 11th hijackers. An initial background query resulted in a real-time “link analysis.” Those of you who know what this is know that it used to take investigators months of work to painstakingly piece together the family members, associations, former addresses, communications, and so on relating to a suspect.

In this case, in just seconds, the information identified an apartment leased by the wife of the target’s brother, which led investigators directly to their target. In today’s terrorist threat environment, real time work like this is critical.

Currently, 13 federal agencies and 20 law enforcement agencies are participating in MATRIX, which is being pilot-tested in 13 states. Once we finish testing, we hope to expand the system nationwide.

Our goal is to ensure that law enforcement officials at all levels of government are sharing intelligence, communicating with each other, and working together -- and with the private sector, as appropriate -- to stop terrorists and other criminals before they strike. To help in reaching that goal, OJP supports – and, in turn, is supported by – the Global Justice Information Network Advisory Committee. This unprecedented partnership consists of representatives from 31 federal and state agencies, as well as national and international associations from across the criminal justice spectrum. Private industry is represented on all its subcommittees.

Global Advisory Committee members examine issues involved in justice information systems integration, coordinate efforts, and provide guidance on how the Department of Justice can best assist state and local jurisdictions in effectively sharing criminal intelligence. But this is not a “federal” effort – it’s a national effort, with all of us as equal partners.

The initiatives I’ve discussed today are precursors to the kinds of partnership efforts that will shape the criminal justice system of the future. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to ensure that our nation’s criminal justice practitioners have the knowledge and resources they need now and in the future. The safety of all Americans is dependent on our ability to accomplish this mission.

Thank you very much for allowing me to be with you today.