Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the Los Angeles Gangs Press Conference

Los Angeles, California
March 31, 2006

Good morning.

First let me thank Mayor Villaraigosa for his invitation to visit Los Angeles, and for his hospitality during my stay. I am also joined today by U.S. Attorney Debra Yang and we just had the opportunity to address members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at their National Gang Summit.

Mayors and U.S. Attorneys are on the front lines in our communities and know better than anyone that gangs have become an increasingly deadly threat to the safety and security of our Nation’s citizens. Addressing this threat – in partnership with our State and local partners – is one of the top priorities of the Department of Justice.

Today, I am pleased to announce six sites for the Department’s new Anti-Gang Initiative that will help complement the on-going effort to combat some of the most violent gangs across the country.

This new program brings together three essential strategies in the fight against gangs: prevention, prosecution, and prisoner re-entry.

The following six areas have been selected to receive $2.5 million in grants to implement this comprehensive anti-gang strategy: Los Angeles; Cleveland; Dallas-Fort Worth; Milwaukee; Tampa; and the “222 Corridor” that stretches from Easton to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.

Here in Los Angeles we will target resources in an area of southeast L.A. that contains three of the largest public housing projects in California. The area has one of the highest concentrations of gang activity in Los Angeles County.

I look forward to visiting the other five sites to see first-hand the innovative solutions they put in place as we launch this initiative. Each of the six locations demonstrated a need for concentrated anti-gang resources, possessed the infrastructure to support all three components of the strategy, and has maintained an existing community partnership or network that will support this new initiative.

In each area, this program will be led by the United States Attorney, who will work with State, local and community partners to implement all three pieces of this comprehensive anti-gang strategy.

The first is prevention. To have enduring success against gangs, we must address the personal, family, and community factors that cause young people to choose gangs over better, more productive alternatives. The more success we have in this area, the fewer people we'll have to prosecute for violent activity down the road. About $1 million in grants per site will be devoted to prevention work.

The second part of the program will provide approximately $1 million in grants to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute gang members who terrorize our communities. The goal will be to focus and lock up the most significant violent offenders.

Finally, we want to ensure that offenders returning to society don't choose violence again. This initiative will support re-entry assistance that includes everything from transitional housing and job placement, to substance abuse and mental health treatment. About $500,000 per site will be available for these types of programs.

America is the greatest country in the world. No mater the circumstances of your birth, you can become the mayor of one of the largest cities or the top law enforcement officer of the land. The mayor and I know first hand the consequences of making good decisions and we know there is no future in being a member of a gang. In these six communities, gangs are shattering the hopes of young people who succumb to their false promises. I believe the efforts being announced today will help us make our communities safer and help ensure that the American dream is a real possibility for more Americans.

Thank you, I’d be happy to answer your questions.