Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association

March 30, 2007

Good morning and thank you for having me here.

It’s always a pleasure to come back to Boston, an area I knew as home when I was in law school.

My memories of those years are good ones. It was a time of dreams for me and my classmates, as we began to reach for the goals we’d all set our sights on as young people. I arrived in New England after spending most of my life in a poor community just outside Houston, Texas. The first in my family to have gone to college, to be in law school at all was a dream-come-true.

My personal experience has been that the United States is a place where a child can dream big dreams … and fulfill them. I believe deeply that this can be true for all Americans, all of this great nation’s children … but not when their neighborhoods and their lives are limited by fear and violence.

That’s why we work so hard – everyone in this room today – to make the streets of our communities safer, every day.

Because an environment that is poisoned by drugs, gangs, gun crime and violence … an environment where predators and pedophiles are able to hunt children like prey … is no place for a child’s dreams to flourish.

This is what the Project Safe Neighborhoods partnership, the Project Safe Childhood partnership, and indeed our community and our team overall is all about: protecting the dreams of America’s youth.

Our shared responsibilities on this front are vast. None of us can keep our communities and our kids safe by acting alone. So I hope that you look to the federal law enforcement community as we look to you: as teammates and as partners in safeguarding the American dream.

I believe that state, local and federal law enforcement is working more closely than ever before in this post-9/11 world.

I realize we ask a lot from you and I know that your jobs are not easy ones. District attorneys carry the bulk of the prosecutorial responsibility in this country. You often do it for less pay and a more difficult lifestyle than you would find in the private sector. I see and appreciate the sacrifices you make for the greater good of your communities, your state and your country, and I commend you for your tremendous service. I appreciate that prosecutors in this state don’t operate in a vacuum – you use both state and federal sentencing of violent criminals, depending on what is appropriate for the situation, which ultimately benefits the communities you protect.

And because the flexibility of using the best tool for the job is so important, I’m proud of Mike Sullivan’s work as U.S. Attorney here. He really understands the importance of forming meaningful partnerships with state and local prosecutors. For example, when it comes to dealing with violent offenders, Mike and you recognize that a case against a violent offender should go into the federal or state system depending on the case itself. We all want to put violent offenders behind bars and keep them there. But whether the case goes state or federal is determined by the facts and circumstances. The approach is flexible, which is important, and the collegial approach you take to your jobs is smart.

Here in Massachusetts, you’ve faced the challenges of increased violence and gun crime. Through your efforts and partnerships like Project Safe Neighborhoods – a collaborative effort among state, local and federal law enforcement, prosecutors and communities to prevent and deter gun violence – you have significantly increased your violent crime prosecutions in the past four years.

But for those of us in law enforcement, new challenges in violent activity seem to always be around the next corner.

And I am concerned that, despite the diligence of dedicated law enforcement professionals, preliminary crime reports in Boston for the first six months of last year showed an increase in violent crime.

Because we are concerned about any city or state facing a violent crime challenge, Justice Department officials have traveled the country, meeting with state and local law enforcement in areas that have experienced violent crime increases, like Boston and those that have experienced decreases so we can better understand the “why” in each case.

Our Initiative for Safer Communities aims to help us all understand the problems and find out where the federal government can help.

The Initiative is focusing on three “I”s:

*Investigate: We’ve been examining the problems, digging deep to find their roots and what feeds them.

*Identify: We are finding out what works, what keeps localities safer.

*Finally, Implement: Once we’ve finished analyzing the information, we’ll share it, and localities will be able to learn from each other and choose from a basket of solutions to apply in their cities.

I’ll be announcing our “identify” and “implementation” phase – including specific Justice Department efforts – in the coming weeks, and I look forward to working with district attorneys here in Massachusetts and all over the country to make America’s communities safer from violent crime.

I’m also looking forward to our continuing teamwork on Project Safe Childhood – a Department of Justice initiative that seeks to better protect America’s children through increased efforts in investigation, prosecution and also awareness about the hideous crimes of child abuse, rape and exploitation through pornography.

PSC is an initiative important to me both professionally and personally, as a dad.

I believe that we are in the midst of an epidemic of sexual abuse and exploitation of our kids…and I intend to work with you and supply the cure.

My personal goal is to turn the tables on pedophiles – to chase down these people who hunt our children like prey, and to bring them to justice.

Last Friday, the Department, in partnership with the Ad Council and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, announced the beginning of a new public service announcement ad campaign that will help further one of the top goals of PSC, and that’s prevention. The ads seek to educate teenage girls on the dangers of sharing their personal information and images on the Internet.

I know that prosecutors in Massachusetts are active in this goal of prevention. Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz came to Washington last December, for example, for our Project Safe Childhood Conference and shared the good work that his office is doing to combat child online child exploitation.

I’ve visited a number of cities around the nation this week to roll out these new ads and to thank our federal, state and local partners in this very important prevention initiative.

We know that the Internet is perhaps the greatest invention of our time, but we also know that it has, unfortunately, provided pedophiles with vast opportunity to entice and exploit our children.

The Internet has provided a marketplace for the criminal images that are child pornography. And while we can’t be sure exactly how many pedophiles are online at any given time, we all know that when law enforcement goes online and enters a chat-room in the guise of a pre-teen, it is usually just a matter of moments before an adult male makes contact.

The new public service advertising campaign is designed to educate teenage girls the potential dangers of sharing personal information online and encourage them to “Think Before You Post.”

Teenage girls in America are online three or more hours a day socializing. They know how to bypass their parents, and they think they are being safe.

They’re wrong – and our hope is that these ads will help them realize that fact in a way that even parents might not be able to.

I had a chance to talk about Project Safe Childhood with the National Association of District Attorneys last summer – and many of the officials I met over the past few days in Denver, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Houston and Chicago were district attorneys – and , and I want you to know that my dedication to this issue remains as strong today as ever. Like the fight against terrorism, this is an issue that we cannot let slip off of our radar screens, ever.

As a society, we already share a revulsion for what pedophiles do to our children. The crimes are so terrible that people are uncomfortable talking about them.

But if we are to make real progress… If we are to really stop pedophiles and predators before they strike… We need to move our country past revulsion and on to determination fueled by outrage, and finally on to action by parents, community organizations, law enforcement and victims groups.

The message I want to leave you with today is simply this: The Department of Justice is committed to making sure that every American city and town can share in the success of low violent crime rates, safety from terrorist attacks, and freedom from every parent’s worst fear of crimes against their kids. I think we all know that teamwork is the only way to make those goals a reality, and we appreciate being on your team.

As the President says so often, “the most solemn duty of the American President and government is to protect this country from harm.” Living up to that duty is foremost on my mind, and on the minds of everyone in this room, when we go to bed at night and when we wake up every morning. I think we’re doing a good job with the task, but more must be done. I look forward to continued work with all of you to make American neighborhoods safe for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you again for having me here today. May God bless you and your work, may He watch over you and your offices and may he continue to bless the United States of America.