First let me thank the Mayor for being here and my thanks to U.S. Attorney John Richter for hosting this announcement.
I grew up in a neighborhood that had little but hopes and dreams. All of our children should be focused on the pursuit of the American dream. But that is hard to do if you live in fear and grow up in neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.
It is clear to me that removing the scourge of gang violence from America’s neighborhoods requires an integrated, comprehensive approach that utilizes partnerships with both law enforcement and community-service groups. Last week, I announced that four communities will receive $2.5 million in grants to implement their own comprehensive anti-gang strategy: Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, Rochester, New York, and Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. Here in Oklahoma City the metropolitan police department has identified more than 87 gangs with over 4000 members.
I know that law enforcement and city leaders have been working hard through the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Gang Task Force trying to bring this number down and I hope this grant will make the difference this city needs.
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.
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; next we will hear from U.S. Attorney John Richter and then Mayor Cornett.