Opening Remarks for
The Deputy Attorney General
Meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice
And Delinquency Prevention
July 24, 2001
On behalf of the Attorney General, welcome to this quarterly meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
It is a pleasure to join you. As I am new to the work of the Council, I have been reviewing your priorities and activities and I have been impressed with the work that you have championed regarding important juvenile justice issues.
The Council continues to demonstrate its commitment to Federal coordination by highlighting top juvenile justice priorities and developing opportunities for collaboration and coordination across our Federal agencies. The Attorney General relies on this Council to provide an example of how the Federal government can develop unique strategies which utilize the best resources from each of us.
One of our greatest challenges, and the focus of todays meeting, is to address the on-going problems and issues we face as we try to prevent and eliminate youth gang crime.
The problems of youth gang membership and involvement in violent activities cut across the work of many of our agencies. And, the impact of the continuing problems of youth gang activities weighs heavily upon the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems at the State and local levels.
Youth gangs are found in every State and every large city with a population over 250,000 people in the U.S.
Recent surveys have suggested that the percentage of jurisdictions with active youth gangs is decreasing slightly, from 53% in 1996 to 44% in 1999. However, the number of both gangs (more than 26,000) and gang members remains high.
The National Yough Gang Survey was also estimated that an alarming 46% of youth gang members are involved in street drug sales to generate profits for the gang.
The Justice Department has a strong commitment to the fight against youth gangs. As recently as May of this year Attorney General Ashcroft announced the selection of ten sites to receive nearly $1.5 million through our anti-gang initiative to conduct assessments and develop plans as a first step toward implementing the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventions Comprehensive Gang Model.
OJJDPs Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach to Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression is designed to implement and test a comprehensive model for reducing youth gang violence. OJJDP continues to support sites based on their strong prospects for sustaining the approach, program performance, preliminary evaluation data, and evidence of the development of promising strategies.
Individuals from one of these sites, the Mesa (Arizona) Gang Intervention Project, are presenting today and we certainly look forward to their insight and description of their approach to gang prevention, intervention, and suppression.
The Department of Justice also recognizes the excellent work of its other grantees who focus on youth and gang violence, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Gang Prevention Through Targeted Outreach Program led by Frank Sanchez and the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise's Violence Free Zones Initiative led by Bob Woodson. Both of these projects are crucial components of OJJDP's and the Department's overall anti-gang strategy.
Any comprehensive approach to reducing gangs and gang violence must include addressing gun violence. This is why the Administration is proposing to spend more than $550 million over two years to support Project Safe Neighborhoods. This project will hire new federal and state prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, and develop and promote community outreach efforts to reduce gun violence.
Project Safe Neighborhoods proposes that the Justice Department will partner with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the National District Attorneys Association, and local law enforcement to conduct innovative regional cross-training involving prosecutors and agents participating in gun crime enforcement. Our U.S. Attorneys will work with existing coalitions and establish new coalitions within each community to increase awareness and participation --awareness that those who use guns in the commission of crimes will face specific and direct consequences.
My personal resolve echoes the concerns of the Attorney General: we must protect our communities and our citizens. The role of the Justice Department continues to be the enforcement of laws and the provision of support and guidance to States and local communities to prevent and suppress youth gang activities.
Across Federal agencies there are numerous examples of initiatives to fight youth gang crime. I understand that yesterday some of you met and discussed the scope of Federal gang prevention, intervention, and suppression activities such as the work underway at the US Departments of Labor, Housing and Urban Development and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
We are particularly fortunate to have with us today Ms. Gail Rossides, the Assistant Director for Training and Professional Development at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Welcome Ms. Rossides and thank you for taking the time today to represent ATF Director Buckles and join us to share the work underway at ATF, such as your Gang Resistance Education and Training Program.
I am also very pleased that we have with us today presenters who represent an array of research, training, and programming related to the youth gangs. These National experts will discuss such critical issues as:
- the National Youth Gang Center;
- the national trends in youth gang involvement;
- recent research related to youth gang activities and the challenges of preventing youth involvement in gangs; and,
- community collaboration to address and prevent youth gangs.
Their work represents just of few of the many promising strategies and programs currently supported by Coordinating Council members. Thank you for joining us here today and for taking time from your busy schedules to participate in these discussions.
Now, lets move on to our first presenter. John ...