Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at Press Conference Announcing New Resources
to Fight Violent Crime in New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana
August 21, 2006

Thank you, Jim. Good afternoon, everyone.

I am reminded, whenever I come here, that the winds and water of Katrina did not take away the hope and spirit of this city.

No one understands New Orleans’ fighting spirit better than the dedicated officers who have joined me on the stage today. Thank you for all that you do for your community and for your country.

We just had an honest and candid discussion along with Chairman Powell, Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding, and I am concerned about the recent increase in crime and specifically violent crime. Justice must be served, even during difficult times. Although Katrina may have temporarily altered this landscape, we cannot allow her to change the foundation of laws.

Fighting crime anywhere in America is best done at the local and state level, because those officials understand their communities best. But when infrastructures are damaged and resources are compromised – and I’ve seen vivid evidence of that reality here in New Orleans today – it is appropriate for the federal government to come alongside a community. That’s what the Department of Justice has been doing throughout the past year, and it’s what we’ll continue to do with some additional resources that I am announcing today.

I appreciate being here with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten because he really has been a key leader in efforts to rebuild the greater New Orleans criminal justice system. His office has been a driving force behind the building, funding successes, and continued vitality of the Southeast Louisiana Criminal Justice Recovery Task Force whose goal is to encourage a regional, multi-disciplinary approach to rebuilding the greater New Orleans criminal justice system.

With the help of law enforcement partnerships at every level, we’ll continue to fight violent crime in New Orleans while she is rebuilt. In addition to the coordination and funds that the Department has already provided, we are adding the following tools:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will assign four additional special agents to the New Orleans to supplement the Violent Crime Impact Team, which focuses on reducing gun crime.

The U.S. Marshals Service will assign four additional Deputy Marshals to supplement the Crescent Star Fugitive Task Force.

The Department will assign 10 Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to New Orleans to assist in prosecuting firearms, drug and immigration cases with a federal nexus.

In addition, the Department is providing funding to hire an additional nine Assistant U.S. Attorneys who will assist with the fraud and violent crime caseload.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in partnership with state and local law enforcement, has recently launched a Violent Crime Intelligence Initiative to gather information on violent persons, develop an offender list, and distribute that information to federal, state and local law enforcement.

We will also be providing resources to rebuild communities and prevent violent crime by keeping kids safe and off the streets. For example, we’re proud to be providing funding to help establish a Boys and Girls Club and Police Athletic League in New Orleans.

The Department has also provided funding through the Weed and Seed program to establish Safe Havens – secure, accessible facilities where a variety of youth and social services are grouped for convenience and safety – in the three New Orleans Weed and Seed sites.

We’ll be engaging the community to assist law enforcement in cracking down on violent crime, in part by reestablishing the ATF Gun Hotline, which allows citizens to report the illegal use and possession of firearms around the clock. I encourage the citizens of New Orleans to take back their neighborhoods by calling (504) 581-GUNS.

When local knowledge and understanding is supplemented by state and federal help and coordination, a network develops that is stronger than any criminal threat. Working together, we will take back the neighborhoods of New Orleans – away from the killers and drug dealers who stifle the hope of the city’s children. Together, we will return the neighborhoods to the families who built them.

Thank you; I’d be happy to take your questions now.