Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at the Atlanta Violent Crime Impact Team Announcement

Atlanta, Georgia
March 20, 2006

Good morning.

I am pleased to be here to announce the establishment of a new Violent Crime Impact Team initiative here in Atlanta.

For a period, Atlanta was nicknamed “Terminus” because it was founded at the end of the Western & Atlantic railroad line. But it proved to be no dead end. For many years, this has been one of our Nation’s busiest and fastest growing cities.

However, as with any city of this size, the signs of success are tarnished by the impact of violence on our communities. Individual stories of violence show up too often in the Journal Constitution or on the 11 o’clock News – and the effects are devastating for victims and their families.

I am pleased that the overall crime rate in Atlanta is down significantly. You will hear shortly from two of the people who can take some credit for that. But I think they would agree that just one instance of violence – especially gun violence – can tear at the fabric of a city and shatter the hopes and dreams of her citizens.

It is my hope that a targeted and proactive law enforcement presence in the worst areas of Atlanta will help us continue to drive down the violent crime rate even further. I’ve made this one of my highest priorities…because every American deserves to live free from the fear of violent crime.

That is why I am pleased to announce that we are launching the successful Violent Crime Impact Team – or VCIT – program here in Atlanta.

These rapid-response teams are led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They identify hot-zones for violent activity within a community and then concentrate resources in that area to reduce crime and lock up the worst offenders – similar to what the local police and ATF have already done in nearby Clayton County.

Marcellus Beavers – a 19 year old high school drop out – was known to regularly hang around North Clayton High School playing music with friends.

Last year, some members of a gang confronted Marcellus about his music being too loud. After a short scuffle, he brought out a sawed-off shotgun, a .32 caliber handgun, and 30 rounds of ammunition.

An alert Clayton County Police Officer was in the area as part of a concerted effort to increase police presence in this high-crime neighborhood. The officer saw the firearms and the confrontation on school grounds, and was able to restrain Marcellus and break up the potential disaster before anyone was hurt or killed. Marcellus now faces time in federal prison for bringing a firearm and ammunition onto school property.

Marcellus Beavers’ case is an example of what we can achieve with this new VCIT initiative. First, VCIT is proactive and preventive. We’ll put law enforcement resources where we’ve already experienced the volatile mix of guns, gangs, and potential violence. Then, we’ll prosecute cases in federal court where we can secure the toughest prosecutions and penalties.

We know this program works. The Department has launched 22 Violent Crime Impact Teams in cities across the country, and the effects were felt right away from Baltimore to Richmond to Miami. Almost across the board, gun crimes have been reduced in those areas where VCIT has built upon the successes of the President’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program. These initiatives have helped to bring the crime rate in the United States to its lowest level in more than three decades.

The VCIT team will consist of more than ten partners – from Morehouse Campus Police and the Georgia Department of Corrections to the U.S. Marshals Service and Drug Enforcement Agency. Together, they will contribute to the work of the ATF and Atlanta Police Department through a joint task force designed to investigate, arrest, and prosecute violent criminals in the targeted areas.

We want to make this kind of partnership the standard for prevention and enforcement in Atlanta. When VCIT is in place, we’ll be able to go even further than we could in Marcellus Beavers’ case…investigating more fully where and how guns are obtained and trafficked, and prosecuting the web of associates often involved in these cases.

Every member of the VCIT team shares the same goal: protect the public safety by further decreasing violent crime in Atlanta. We’ve proven we can do it, and I look forward to seeing the results on my next trip to the Capital city of the Southeast.

Thank you.

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