First let me thank everyone at the Hawthorne Community Center for sharing their facility with us today, and Mayor Peterson for welcoming us to Indianapolis. I am also glad to be joined by U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks.
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 gangs and gang violence from
America’s neighborhoods requires an integrated, comprehensive approach
that utilizes partnerships with both law enforcement and community-service groups.
Last year, the Department of Justice gave financial assistance to communities with promising anti-gang strategies. Last week, I announced that four more communities would benefit from this partnership-oriented funding.
Indianapolis is the second of the four communities that I am visiting. Last week I was in Rochester, New York, and I’ll be visiting Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina and Oklahoma City as well. Each community will receive $2.5 million in grants to implement their own comprehensive anti-gang strategy.
Here in Indianapolis, resources will be targeted toward an area with an emerging gang problem: Marion County. At least 15 gangs have been identified there. Our anti-gang efforts will be coordinated by the United States Attorney, who will work with her State, local and community partners to implement all three pieces of this 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.
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, Mayor Peterson.