I am pleased to be here with Chairman Sensenbrenner to announce that the Justice Department has launched a new comprehensive anti-gang initiative – and committed $2.5 million dollars – to help combat violent street gangs in targeted areas of Milwaukee.
I’d like to thank the Chairman for his ongoing commitment to safer communities across the country. I’d also like to thank Mayor Tom Barrett and U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic for being here – they will be vital to the success of this new program.
This morning, I had a chance to meet with young people and law enforcement officers who are affected by gang violence every day. I got a small glimpse into what they see on the front lines: Gangs continue to threaten the safety and security of our Nation’s citizens.
In Milwaukee, some neighborhoods have been plagued by gang assaults, robberies, and shootings. The homicide rate here has recently surpassed that of New York City.
As gang members gain control of the streets, citizens become prisoners in their own homes. Any hope for the promises of the American dream gets locked away behind the deadbolts of fear and intimidation.
What’s left are devastating stories of drop-outs, unemployment, teen pregnancy, and violence. Earlier this year, for instance, a nine-year-old girl was shot in the neck by a stray bullet from a nearby gun fight involving two gangs. She was playing in a schoolyard during recess.
Addressing the threat of gangs across the country is one of my top priorities.
The Department is taking a number of steps to accomplish this goal. Foremost, we’ve provided $30 million dollars in local grant assistance to expand on the successful Project Safe Neighborhoods program with a focus on violent gangs. We’ve also established ATF-led Violent Crime Impact Teams in 23 cities, which complement the work of 128 FBI-led Safe Streets Task Forces and the Department’s Weed and Seed Program.
Taken together, these successful efforts continue to heal troubled communities. Milwaukee already has active Project Safe Neighborhoods, OCDETF, HIDTA and ATF Gun Task Force programs that focus on the gang problem, among other issues. But additional attention and resources are vital here and elsewhere.
That’s why the Justice Department has selected six sites for a new initiative that will help combat some of the most violent gangs across the country. Milwaukee is one of those sites, along with Cleveland; Dallas-Fort Worth; Los Angeles; Tampa; and a corridor that stretches from Easton to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Milwaukee will receive $2.5 million in grants to implement a comprehensive program in the 2nd and 5th Police Districts. Under this new initiative, the U.S. Attorney will be able to better coordinate federal resources to take back the streets for law-abiding citizens.
But this is a “street level” program – where local leaders help develop innovative solutions to the unique gang problem facing this community. We’ll rely on people like the leaders of the Latino Community Center I visited this morning.
This partnership at every level of government will employ three essential strategies in the fight against gangs: prevention, prosecution, and prisoner re-entry.
First, we must address the personal, family, and community factors that cause young people to choose gangs over more productive alternatives. The more success we have in prevention, the fewer people we'll have to prosecute for violent activity down the road.
The second part of the program will provide resources to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute gang members who terrorize our communities. The goal will be to 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 the services and assistance, such as transitional housing, substance abuse treatment and job training assistance that offenders need to return to a productive life outside of prison.
America is the greatest country in the world. No matter the circumstances of your birth, you can become anything you choose. But there is no future in being a member of a gang.
In Milwaukee, 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 this community safer and help ensure that the American dream is a real possibility for more Americans.