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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery of Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon at the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Grantee Site Visit, Lowell, Massachusetts
Thank you, Eddie and Greg. I’m so pleased to join you today. I want to thank you, Greg, and your amazing team at UTEC for serving as our hosts, and for being such terrific partners over the years.
I’m very happy to be here in Lowell, joining my distinguished colleagues, Eddie Bocanegra [Senior Advisor for CVI] and Nancy La Vigne, the Director of the National Institute of Justice [as well as Michelle Garcia/BJA, Sharron Fletcher/OVC, and Jennifer Plozai/OCOM].
My deepest thanks to our panelists, who I look forward to hearing from in a few minutes, and to everyone who’s taken the time to be here this morning.
It is a privilege to meet with so many professionals here in the greater Boston area who are doing such innovative, essential, and life-saving work. We know that this work is deeply personal. For many of you, it’s a calling that you have devoted your careers and your lives to answering. In many cases, your commitment grew out of your own experience with violence, and it became a pledge to spare others the same pain and grief that you suffered. We are both humbled by your commitment and grateful for all you are doing.
The Office of Justice Programs, which I am privileged to lead, is one of the Department of Justice’s key connection points to communities throughout the country. Our role is to work with leaders like all of you to find answers to community safety challenges, including gun violence which is devastating too many people, too many families, in too many neighborhoods.
As you have shown us, this is a complex problem that demands a community-wide response – and success depends on the expertise and credibility of people who have lived through these challenges. This work simply cannot be done without you.
This is why we are so fortunate to have Eddie Bocanegra serving as Senior Advisor for Community Violence Intervention and guiding our efforts at the Office of Justice Programs. We benefit from Eddie’s experience and expertise - and his deep commitment to this work – every day. Many of you know Eddie from his groundbreaking violence reduction work at READI Chicago, which has reached countless young men and has been validated by the most rigorous research. READI participants saw large reductions in arrests and victimizations, and every dollar invested in the program returned roughly four dollars in societal benefits. These research findings show what you must feel every day: that community violence intervention is a wise investment and can save lives.
Eddie is a strong advocate for all of you. Just last month, he came to Boston to meet with more than 300 CVI professionals to hear from them about how we can support the work that many of you are doing. We have paid close attention to the lessons you and others have shared, and we are using that feedback to guide us in our work.
And these lessons could not be more timely or essential. Last week, the President established the first-ever White House office dedicated to addressing gun violence. The Vice President will oversee the new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and two people whose lives have been impacted by gun violence – Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox – will help lead its work. This action is a signal, not only of how urgently this Administration views the challenge of gun violence, but of how much it relies on people who have lived experience and deep expertise to meet the moment.
The Department of Justice – and the Office of Justice Programs – are proud to help lead the federal government’s efforts. We’re taking an approach centered on advancing community safety, building community trust, and strengthening the community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice. We are working to empower community organizations and stakeholders and help build the community infrastructure that is an essential complement to law enforcement and other public safety partners when it comes preventing and reducing violent crime.
A year ago, thanks in part to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, we were able to award $100 million in grant funding to support community violence intervention programs and research. This was the largest targeted federal investment in these strategies in history, and we were very deliberate in supporting CVI as community-driven, community-centered, and equity-focused.
In that first group of awards, we funded 47 site-based grantees in 24 states and territories. These include community-based nonprofits and city-led collaboratives. The goal was to both seed new efforts and build on established interventions. The larger vision here is to grow and strengthen the CVI ecosystems in jurisdictions around the country.
We also supported three intermediary organizations to provide both funding and hands-on technical assistance to smaller community-based organizations, with the goal of building capacity to grow and sustain their work in the long term.
We know that these smaller CBOs have deep ties to the community and are often in the best position to deliver high-impact interventions. Yet they’re often under-resourced and don’t have the tools to take on the burden of applying for and administering grants. This intermediary -- or micro-grant approach -- helps us tap into the enormous wealth of expertise that these small, local organizations bring to this important work.
On top of these capacity-building investments and the site-based programs, we’re also standing up a Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Field Support Resource Center. This is another way we’re trying to build local capacity. This center offers free training and technical assistance to any organization interested in exploring violence interventions, whether they’re a grantee or not.
We’re also providing tailored technical assistance to our CVI grantees through the Community Based Public Safety Collective and their partners.
And finally – and you’ll hear more about this from Nancy in a moment – we’re supporting research and evaluation so that we can better understand what works to reduce violence and save lives. We have reason to believe that the positive results from the READI Chicago study that I mentioned earlier could be found in some other programs, too – but very few CVI programs have actually been evaluated by researchers. It’s time to change that and build our evidence base so that we can show the value of these programs and learn more about what works.
I’m proud that we’ve been able to make these resources available, and I’m eager to see where this collaboration between the Department of Justice and our CVI partners will take us. But last year’s awards were only the beginning. We know that even more is needed to meet the moment.
Which is why I’m very pleased to announce today that we're making a second round of awards, totaling more than $90 million, through our Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative. These new investments will support 29 new site-based awards in communities across the country, including community-based organizations, city-led collaboratives, and four states that proposed multi-jurisdictional approaches. This tranche of awards also includes grants to UTEC, Roca, and the Boston Public Health Commission, all here in Lowell and the greater Boston area.
New grants will also support four new micro-grant programs, one of which will be administered by Health Resources in Action in Boston. Taken together, these four intermediary organizations will reach up to 20 additional CBOs.
Funding will continue to build our training and technical assistance and provide ongoing support for the resource center, and we’re supporting six new research and evaluation awards, including two here in Massachusetts – Suffolk University and the American Institutes for Research.
In addition, a grant to the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI) in Boston will provide training and technical assistance to hospital-based violence intervention programs supported by our Office for Victims of Crime. The grant will build on the amazing work that HAVI is already doing to help service providers address the acute trauma suffered by survivors, which, as we all know, is a critical first step in preventing future violence.
I’m excited that these new investments will allow us to almost double the cohort of grantees, build on the national momentum, and help establish CVI as a lasting pillar of this country’s public safety infrastructure.
I can assure you that we will continue working with CVI professionals here in the Bay State and across the country, listening to and learning from all of you. I’ve traveled with Eddie and my colleagues to see some of the transformative work being done in communities from Miami to Baltimore, Chicago to L.A., and I am consistently amazed and inspired by the difference your work is making. It is no exaggeration to say that it is what motivates us in Washington to do what we do.
We know that the work you do is difficult. We know that is demanding, emotionally and physically. And yet we know it is vital. In fact, it is some of the most important work being done today in communities throughout America.
What we hear in each of these cities – and what we heard this morning from the team at UTEC – are stories about exposure to violence and its deep impact, about pain, struggle, and trauma… but also hope, optimism, and integrity. We heard about street intervention workers with “hearts bigger than their bodies,” who react “like firefighters” to emergency calls, and who “plant seeds of hope.” And for so many of our young people, programs like UTEC and Roca become their safe space, their family, their hope, their community. And that gives them the strength and the resolve to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.
We will learn more about the work that each of the Boston-area new grantees will do in the next panel, which Eddie will facilitate.
And so for now, I want to offer my sincere thanks – and congratulations – to these new grantees and all of the others who will hear the good news later today.
I’m very hopeful about what we are engaged in together – the work you have all given life to, the work you give your lives to. We are grateful for all you do.
I now have the pleasure of introducing our next speaker, my amazing, long-time colleague, Nancy La Vigne.
Nancy is the Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which is the research and evaluation arm of the Department of Justice and is part of the Office of Justice Programs. Nancy and I first met in the 1990s, when we were both working at NIJ during our first stints at the Department.
As I mentioned earlier, building our base of knowledge is central to our CVI strategy, and no one is more committed to that mission than Nancy and her team at NIJ. Under her direction, NIJ is working hard, every day, to bridge the divide between research and practice, something she has done successfully throughout her career. NIJ’s investments are foundational to our work in community violence intervention, and we are very fortunate to have Nancy at the helm.
Please join me in welcoming the Director of our National Institute of Justice, Nancy La Vigne.