Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
on Efforts to Combat Gang Violence in Rochester, New York

Rochester, New York
April 26, 2007

Good morning.

First let me thank everyone at Pathways to Peace for sharing their facility with us today. I am joined by U.S. Attorney Terrance Flynn.

We know that some cities, like Rochester, are dealing with significant increases in violent crimes, fueled in part by loosely knit “street gangs.”

These “crews,” as they are sometimes called, are as varied as the communities in which they are found. That’s why local investigators, prosecutors and community leaders are in the best position to come up with solutions to combat the violence these gangs perpetrate.

Federal efforts are, of course, already organized against larger, national gangs, but the Department of Justice can also assist state and local authorities.

Last February, I announced an expansion of the Justice Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program to include new and enhanced anti-gang efforts. It had become clear to me that removing the scourge of gangs and gang violence from America’s neighborhoods would require an integrated, comprehensive approach that utilizes partnerships with both law enforcement and community-service groups like Pathways to Peace.

Last year, in addition to the funds made available through Project Safe Neighborhoods, we gave targeted assistance to six sites through the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative. Today I am pleased to announce four new sites for this partnership-oriented initiative.

Rochester is the first site I am visiting. The other three will be: Indianapolis, Indiana; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Each area will receive $2.5 million in grants to implement a comprehensive anti-gang strategy.

While enforcing the law in this area is important, keeping kids out of gangs in the first place is the goal of all goals. That’s why this program brings together three essential strategies in the fight against gangs: prevention, prosecution, and prisoner re-entry.

We believe that, when a child has chosen the Boys and Girls Club instead of gang life…

When a prisoner re-enters society with faith in a higher power instead of in the power of illegal guns…

And when kids are playing baseball in the Police Athletic Leagues instead of doing drugs, our jobs in law enforcement get easier and America’s neighborhoods become better places to live.

Here in Rochester, resources will be targeted toward reducing gang violence in the “Crescent,” where over 90 percent of all of Rochester’s documented gang activity occurs.

I look forward to visiting the other three sites to see, first-hand, the innovative solutions each community puts in place as we launch this initiative. Each of the four 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 coordinated 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. One million dollars in grants per site will be devoted to prevention work.

The second part of the program will provide $1 million in grants to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute gang members who terrorize our communities. The goal will be to focus on 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 through faith-based and community providers that includes everything from transitional housing and job placement, to substance abuse and mental health treatment. Five hundred thousand dollars per site will be available for these types of programs.

America is the greatest country in the world. No matter the circumstances of your birth, you can achieve great things when you work hard and make good choices.

There is no future in being a member of a gang.

I believe the efforts being announced today will help protect our neighborhoods and offer a lot of kids an alternative to gang life. Ultimately, all of this will help ensure that the American dream is a real possibility for more Americans.

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