U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Law Enforcement and Youth Partnerships For Crime Prevention Conference
Washington, DC
October 7, 2005

Thank you, Domingo. On behalf of President Bush and Judge Gonzales, it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to the second annual conference.

Let me add my thanks to Chief Ramsey and U.S. Attorney Wainstein for stopping by. Their presence is a reminder of their leadership in the law enforcement and prosecution fields, and a sure sign of their commitment to our youth. From their remarks, you can tell that they get it.

Let me also thank Al Lenhardt, President and CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council. Al was able to join us today, and I want to thank him for his leadership at NCPC and for his partnership in this conference. I'm glad you could join us, Al, and I look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Before I acknowledge everyone for all the work they've put into the conference, I want to wish Robbie Callaway well in his new pursuits. Robbie's been with Boys and Girls Clubs of America for 23 years, and now he's moving on. Let's give Robbie a thunderous applause for his leadership.

I understand he'll be looking for a cure for cancer in his new job. (Sounds easy enough.) It appears that we've swapped industries, so to speak. I've moved from HHS to DOJ and he's moving from fighting crime to fighting cancer. Good swap!

I didn't have much of a chance to work with Robbie, but his reputation preceded him. He's been a real force in improving the quality of life for our youth, and he's been a true friend of OJP. Robbie, I thank you for everything you've done to keep young people on the right path, and I hope that you'll stay in touch.

Behind every successful leader is a terrific staff. I'd like to thank the staff of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for their role in organizing this conference, and for all they do on behalf of America's youth.

I am constantly amazed at the quantity and quality of work that Domingo and his staff in our Bureau of Justice Assistance produce. Once again, they've put on a terrific conference.

Also, a word of thanks to Mark Piccirilli and the staff of First Pic Consulting for all their hard work.

Finally, I want to thank all of the youth, law enforcement, and crime prevention co-sponsors. Domingo noted some, and you can see on the banner behind me who the others are.

We're fortunate in the criminal justice community to have the support of organizations like these. I've always thought that law and order is a community responsibility, not a function exclusive to law enforcement. I'm grateful that these groups share that civic vision.

I'm thankful, too, that all of you are committed to working for the safety and welfare of our youth. As you might have noticed, I have more than a professional interest in our children's future. With one young son at home and a second child on the way, I feel a strong sense of urgency about the need to give young people healthy options.

I know all of you feel the same way, whether you have your own children or not. I encourage you to stay true to that commitment and to keep up the excellent work that you've been doing.

One of the nice things about this conference is that it truly is a working conference. I know you'll hear about some wonderful programs, and you'll get a few ideas about how you can improve the link between law enforcement and youth.

You'll probably also pick up a few lessons from your luncheon speaker about commitment, perseverance, and the value of working together.

I understand that Dr. Ballard was a big hit last year, and we are delighted to see him back. I'm also pleased to announce that he and the Sea Research Foundation will be using about $150,000 in federal funds to implement a science-based after-school program.

That program is part of an overall funding effort that we're announcing here today:

  • Up to $200,000 will go to the Better Business Bureau to get youth involved in educating the public about identity theft and financial fraud.
  • Up to $200,000 will go to the Super Leaders Foundation to help form long-term mentoring programs.
  • Up to $500,000 will go to the Clemson University Strom Thurmond Leadership Institute to train youth and crime prevention professionals in forming partnerships.
  • Up to $200,000 will go to the National Crime Prevention Council to support expanded training and technical assistance around the concept of crime prevention through environmental design. Those funds also will help build a partnership between NCPC's Safe and Sound program and our Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, or GREAT.

Also, other partner organizations, including the National Sheriffs' Association, the Police Athletic League, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Center for Prevention and Research Solutions, have received funding support for their participation.

The idea behind this conference is to leave with something concrete - a plan to strengthen partnerships between law enforcement and youth in each of your communities. Over these two days, you'll be working with your fellow team members to develop your plans.

At the end of the conference, we'll take a look at those plans. And the reward for all your work will be start-up funding of up to $15,000 for each community to begin implementing your plans, as soon as you return home.

And by the way, more than 100 communities are represented here. I think that's terrific.

So, you ask, why are we going about it this way? Did we come across an extra $1.5 million lying around at the end of the fiscal year and, in a fit of panic, decide that this was the best way to unburden ourselves?

No. Actually, we've learned over the years that programs are much more successful when participants plan strategically. And the reason for that success has a lot to do with community buy-in. When stakeholders see that a program has vision, and when those stakeholders are involved from the beginning, the program almost always does well.

By the same token, programs that don't make it fail in large part because they lack vision and because they never establish credibility among community partners.

In OJP, we work with communities to help them gain a clear focus on the problems they're facing and to map out a course for addressing those problems.

Boys and Girls Clubs have been remarkably adept at strategic planning, and their efforts have born real fruit.

For example, down in Mobile, Alabama, the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama worked with the police department and a host of other agencies and organizations to create a "Kids and Cops" summer camp. The camp is a three-week police academy program that targets youth in four public housing communities.

The program teaches leadership skills, public speaking, and goal setting, and it focuses on building self esteem. Officers estimate that the program has contributed to a 15 percent drop in the crime rate there. And young people, who used to view police in a negative light, now see them as their friends.

There are other examples, as well. Take, for instance, the Central Maine Public Safety Explorers program up in Waterville, Maine. The Boys and Girls Club there worked with four local police departments to develop a program designed to prevent crime, to introduce youth to the public safety professions, and to encourage youth to become leaders.

The program expanded into a two-day leadership camp, and it is now the largest collaboration for an explorer post in the state. Police departments whole-heartedly support the program and actively recruit new members. OJP provided a little seed funding, and the result is that more than 20 young people are involved in a positive partnership with law enforcement.

And then there's the unique and innovative partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and the crew of the Coast Guard cutter "Mustang." In that program, Coast Guard volunteers, as well as volunteers from local law enforcement and the fire department, provide mentorship to 35 young people.

The volunteers provide one-on-one tutoring, offer outdoor educational sessions, and participate in civic activities such as beach clean-up and senior citizen assistance. There's even a group activity called "real guys know how to bake cookies." (Maybe that's why the fire department is involved!)

The volunteers instill confidence in the Club's young members and serve as positive male role models to boys from single parent households.

There are many other examples:

There's a truancy abatement program run by Boys and Girls Clubs of Omaha in partnership with the Police Athletic League and others.

There's an after-school science-based program in St. Paul, Minnesota supported by the St. Paul Police Department and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.

And there are the Youth Crime Watch Clubs and the inter-Club basketball league sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Acadiana, Louisiana in partnership with law enforcement departments there. More than 200 youngsters have been involved in those two programs. And by the way, in addition to its usual good work, the Club is housing evacuees from the hurricanes and using its facilities to run a transitional academic program for kids who have been displaced.

These are just a few examples of the many excellent programs that youth organizations have created in partnership with law enforcement. OJP will continue to support programs like these that give young people a voice and a role in preventing crime in their communities.

President Bush is fully behind your efforts as well. Back in January, during his State of the Union Address, he announced his Helping America's Youth Initiative to help at-risk youth stay free of crime and drugs. At the end of this month, the First Lady will convene the first-ever White House Conference on Helping America's Youth. The initiative is front and center for the Attorney General, OJP, and other federal agencies.

One of the key elements of that initiative is intervening with kids who become involved in gangs. And here, OJP plays a prominent role.

The President recognizes, as we all do, that gangs don't just materialize out of thin air. They form when displaced, frustrated, and misdirected young people come together, seeking the stability and order that have been missing from their lives.

The illusion of power and control projected by gangs is an attraction that they are not equipped to resist. Hope and opportunity have so long been denied them, that they don't even recognize the meaning of the words. Indeed, the circumstances that lead to gang involvement are as tragic as the violence and destruction that issue from it.

If we hope to suppress gangs, then we must be prepared to deal with these underlying issues. We must recognize the tremendous void in the lives of these youth, and we must move now to fill it. As President Bush has said, "We need to focus on giving young people better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail."

The Office of Justice Programs has been working with organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs to promote these options. Our work has born fruit. We have supported demonstration projects that integrate prevention, intervention, and suppression activities. We have helped to create and sustain programs that keep returning young offenders on the straight-and-narrow. And we have gone into schools to talk to students about staying away from gangs and to help them understand the consequences of gang involvement.

One of our successful initiatives is our GREAT program, which I referred to earlier. The GREAT Program is administered by Domingo's office, and it helps to prevent youth crime and gang involvement by fostering positive relationships between law enforcement and youth. Back in June, we awarded more than $12 million under GREAT to support programs across the country.

At the heart of the GREAT Program is a curriculum taught by law enforcement officers to elementary and middle-school students. Its goal is to help kids gain respect for the law and cultivate in them a desire to be good citizens.

Many of you are involved in GREAT. I know, for example, that the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson has run a GREAT program, and about 100 kids have participated.

Programs like GREAT are critical if we are serious about giving our young people healthy alternatives to drugs, gangs, and crime. And I know that all of you are. You've shown it by your presence here, and you've shown it every day through your work.

We're making remarkable progress in our efforts to keep youth away from crime and its consequences. Over the last decade, the rate of violent victimization among juveniles has fallen by more than 50 percent. That's a good sign that we're finding ways to prevent young people from becoming involved in criminal activity.

Our success owes a great deal to the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and youth organizations. Your willingness to work together has fundamentally altered the landscape of possibilities for our young people.

I applaud each and every one of you for your vision and commitment, and I commend you for all that you do on behalf of America's youth.

Thank you.

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