National Drug Intelligence Center
Attorney General's Report to Congress on the Growth of Violent Street Gangs in Suburban Areas
The Department's comprehensive plan to combat gangs across America is twofold: First, prioritize prevention programs to provide America's youth, as well as offenders returning to the community, with opportunities that help them resist gang involvement. Second, ensure robust enforcement policies when gang-related violence does occur. This comprehensive plan to combat gangs and gang violence also recognizes the critical need of state and local law enforcement and local community groups to continue to work hand in hand on the front lines in the war against gang violence. Although this report focuses on Justice Department efforts, combating gang violence is an Administration priority. Our sister agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, also contribute to efforts to combat gangs in America and internationally.
The list below includes many of the important steps already taken by the Justice Department to address the issue of gang violence.
In May 2001 President Bush announced Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a comprehensive initiative to reduce gun crime in America. By linking together federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and community leaders, PSN has provided a multi-faceted approach to prosecuting and deterring gun crime. In 2006 the Department of Justice expanded PSN to include new and enhanced anti-gang efforts. The goal is to use strategies and partnerships with state and local law enforcement and communities pioneered under PSN to shut down violent gangs in America.
The Project Safe Neighborhoods strategy involves five elements: partnerships, strategic planning, training, outreach and accountability. The U.S. Attorney in each of the 94 federal judicial districts works side by side with local law enforcement and other officials to tailor the PSN strategy to address the unique gun and gang crime problems in that district. Criminals are prosecuted under federal, state, or local laws, depending on which jurisdiction can provide the most appropriate punishment. PSN task forces engage in community outreach and media campaigns to deter gun and gang crime, and deploy grant funds to support effective prosecution and prevention programs. Both at the local and national levels, PSN also ensures that law enforcement officers and prosecutors have the training necessary to make the program work.
Since its launch, PSN has committed approximately $2 billion to federal, state, and local efforts to fight gun crime and gang violence. These funds have been used to hire new federal, state, and local prosecutors; provide training; hire research and community outreach support; and develop and promote effective prevention and deterrence efforts. PSN funds have enabled more than 200 federal prosecutors to be hired to prosecute gun crime and gun-related cases, and approximately $63 million in grants have been made available to hire over 550 new state and local prosecutors to focus on gun crime. The national PSN training and technical assistance partners have trained nearly 33,000 individuals in over 300 nationally sponsored training events across the nation who work to make our communities safer. Local PSN programs have organized training for many thousands more.
Supporting PSN's state, local, and community partners is the foundation of the initiative. In fiscal year (FY) 2007, the Department made available over $30 million in grant funding to support local PSN partners in their anti-gang enforcement and prevention efforts, and to provide anti-gang training and technical assistance. Additionally, over $20 million in grant funding was made available to support PSN efforts that focus on reducing gun crime. In FY 2008, the Department was appropriated $20 million to support programs to reduce gun crime and gang violence.
In FY 2007, through the PSN initiative, the Department prosecuted a remarkable 12,087 defendants for federal gun crimes and increased the case filings more than 60 percent since the year prior to the inception of PSN. In FY 2007, the conviction rate for firearms defendants was a record 92 percent. The percentage of those defendants sentenced to prison--nearly 94 percent--is also a record high. Over 54 percent of those offenders received prison terms of more than 5 years, and nearly 75 percent received sentences of more than 3 years. From FY 2001 through FY 2007, the Department filed 68,543 cases against 83,106 defendants--an over 100 percent increase in cases filed in the previous 7-year period. Project Safe Neighborhoods continues to make tremendous headway in keeping America's neighborhoods safe. PSN's emphasis on violent gangs complements existing and new Department of Justice anti-gang efforts, which are listed below.
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In 2006 the PSN program expanded to combat gangs and gang violence. The Department has taken a number of significant steps to address this problem both domestically and internationally. First, the Department established the Attorney General's Anti-Gang Coordination Committee to bring all of the Department's wide ranging efforts to bear in the focus on gangs. Second, each U.S. Attorney appointed an Anti-Gang Coordinator to provide leadership and focus to our anti-gang efforts at the district level. Third, the Anti-Gang Coordinators, in consultation with their local law enforcement and community partners, developed and are implementing comprehensive, district-wide strategies to address the gang problems in each of America's districts. Finally, the Department is working closely with our international partners, particularly in Central America, to prevent violent gangs in those regions from infiltrating our communities.
In April 2007 the Department announced the expansion of our "Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative" from six to ten sites nationwide. The initiative, which was announced in March 2006, originally provided a total of $15 million ($2.5 million per site) to six jurisdictions experiencing significant gang problems: Los Angeles, Tampa, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Milwaukee, and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's "Route 222 Corridor," which stretches from Easton to Lancaster. Four additional sites will receive $2.5 million in targeted grant funding: Rochester, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis, and Raleigh-Durham. Each of these 10 sites works to reduce gang membership and gang violence through enforcement efforts, prevention efforts, and reentry strategies. Enforcement efforts focus on the most significant gang members. Prevention efforts focus on reducing youth gang crime and violence by addressing the full range of personal, family, and community factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency and gang activity. Finally, reentry strategies focus on creating mentor-based reentry assistance programs with faith-based and other community organizations providing transitional housing, job readiness and placement assistance, and substance abuse and mental health treatment to prisoners reentering society. Focused enforcement efforts under the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative are showing strong early results. In Cleveland, one of the most violent gangs and its associates, operating in and around the target area, has been dismantled through both federal and state investigations and prosecutions. These tough actions have resulted in over 169 federal and state indictments. Through vigorous prosecutions, 168 defendants have been convicted and one awaits trial. In Cleveland's target area, violent crime is down by more than 15 percent.
Through the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement & Coordination Center (GangTECC), and the Criminal Division's Gang Squad, the Department has established national coordination on intelligence and enforcement mechanisms aimed at dismantling the most significant violent national and regional gangs. GangTECC began operations in summer 2006 as the national anti-gang task force created by the Attorney General. GangTECC is a multi-agency center designed to serve as a critical catalyst in a unified federal effort to help disrupt and dismantle the most significant and violent gangs in the United States. It is led by a senior Criminal Division prosecutor with multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional task force experience. The senior investigators at GangTECC come from ATF, BOP, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These federal agents work in close collaboration with the prosecutors of the Criminal Division's Gang Squad and with the analysts at NGIC.
As directed by the Attorney General, GangTECC assists the initiation of gang-related investigations and enhances existing investigations and prosecutions; aids in the coordination, deconfliction, and effectiveness of gang-related initiatives, investigations, and prosecutions; develops an enhanced understanding of the national gang problem and proposes strategies to neutralize the most violent and significant threats; and coordinates with and supports the NGIC. GangTECC's goal is to achieve maximum impact at the national level against the most violent gangs in this country. To further this end, GangTECC is intended to provide "one stop shopping" via phone and e-mail for local, state, and federal investigators and prosecutors engaged in significant anti-gang efforts.
NGIC integrates the gang intelligence assets of all Department of Justice agencies and has established partnerships with other federal, state, and local agencies that possess gang-related information--serving as a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support. This enables gang investigators and analysts to identify links between gangs and gang investigations, to further identify gangs and gang members, to learn the full scope of their criminal activities and enterprises, to determine which gangs pose the greatest threat to the United States, to identify trends in gang activity and migration, and to guide the appropriate officials in coordinating their investigations and prosecutions to disrupt and dismantle gangs. The NGIC's mission is to support law enforcement agencies through timely and accurate information sharing and strategic/tactical analysis of federal, state, and local law enforcement intelligence focusing on the growth, migration, criminal activity, and association of gangs that pose a significant threat to communities throughout the United States.
The Criminal Division's Gang Squad, created in 2006, is a specialized group of federal prosecutors charged with developing and implementing strategies to target, attack, and dismantle the most significant national and transnational gangs operating in the United States. These prosecutors not only prosecute select gang cases of national importance, they also formulate policy, assist and coordinate with local U.S. Attorneys Offices (USAOs) on legal issues and multi-district cases, and work with numerous domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies to construct effective and coordinated prevention and enforcement strategies. The Gang Squad is led by an experienced federal prosecutor within the Criminal Division, and Gang Squad attorneys work closely with analysts located at the NGIC and with law enforcement agents located at the GangTECC in a collective effort designed to target and dismantle the most serious gang-related threats nationwide. The Gang Squad brought a number of charges of national and international significance last year, including a RICO indictment in Maryland charging MS-13 leaders, who are imprisoned in El Salvador, with directing the killing of persons in the United States from inside their jail cells in El Salvador.
The FBI-led MS-13 National Gang Task Force is an FBI headquarters-based task force that was formed in 2004. The Task Force concentrates specifically on dismantling the notorious gang Mara Salvatrucha, commonly referred to as MS-13. The task force coordinates and directs intelligence gathering and investigations regarding gang members nationwide. These efforts streamline the work of federal, state and local law enforcement in controlling this highly dangerous and highly mobile gang. The MS-13 National Task Force works in close coordination with GangTECC, NGIC and the Criminal Division's Gang Squad.
Department officials, in winter 2006/spring 2007, visited 18 areas scattered across the country to talk with state and local law enforcement and others in the community about violent crime. They spoke not only to communities who were experiencing an increase in violent crime, but also to those experiencing a decrease. Through the visits, Department officials found that data do not reveal nationwide trends but show increases locally in a number of communities. Each community is facing different circumstances, and in some places violent crime continued to decrease. The Department found that crime problems cannot be tackled uniformly or unilaterally because crime issues vary from city to city and even between and among neighborhoods in a single city. From these meetings the Department sought to identify common themes for crime trends in the specific communities. The themes included the presence of loosely organized local or street crews, increases in incidences of illegal use and illegal acquisition of firearms, and a level of violence among youth.
After the visits, and building on PSN, the anti-gang initiative, and other efforts, in May 2007 the Department launched a series of new and comprehensive initiatives designed to expand and enhance federal law enforcement efforts aimed at reducing violent crime, providing assistance to state and local law enforcement, strengthening laws, and increasing funding. Through these initiatives, the Department, working with state and local law enforcement, identifies cases that focus on the "worst of the worst" offenders. The Department has conducted coordinated fugitive sweeps and takedowns in cities such as Cleveland, Ohio; Modesto/Bakersfield, California; Trenton/Newark/Jersey City, New Jersey; Dallas, Texas; Gadsden, Alabama; and Los Angeles, California; and conducted Fugitive Safe Surrender operations in Akron, Ohio; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. Further, ATF expanded its violent crime impact teams to five additional cities, and the FBI has increased the number of safe streets task forces to 182.
As part of the initiative, in January of 2008, PSN's Anti-Gang Training was launched. The first training was held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for more than 500 attendees. The goal of the regional training is to improve the level of knowledge, communication, and collaboration involved in addressing the criminal gang issue impacting communities throughout the nation. Courses focus on gang-related enforcement, prevention and intervention programs, and an executive session geared toward law enforcement and community partner executives. The training will assist state and local jurisdictions in the collection, analysis, and exchange of information on gang-related demographics, legislation, literature, research, and promising program strategies. Additionally, the training will provide state and local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies the tools necessary to recognize and identify gang presence in a community. This training has been or will be offered regionally throughout the United States in the following areas: Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Rochester, New York; Spokane, Washington; Mesa, Arizona; Houston, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; Salt Lake City, Utah; Sacramento, California; Lexington, Kentucky; and Lincoln, Nebraska.
In 2007 the Department launched a new grant program in support of PSN, PSN Anti-Gang, and violent crime efforts. The Violent Crime Reduction Partnership Initiative (VCRPI) will assist state, local, and tribal governments in responding to violent crime, as well as chronic gang, drug, and gun violence, through support for multi-jurisdictional violent crime task forces. Built on the lessons from some of the nation's most effective crime task forces, the primary goals of the initiative are to (1) address spikes or areas of increased violent crime in local communities; (2) disrupt criminal gang, gun, and drug activities, particularly those with multi-jurisdictional characteristics; and (3) prevent violent crime by improving criminal intelligence and information sharing. Through discretionary funding to law enforcement task forces, the initiative will allow communities to address specific violent crime problems with focused strategies, including task force-driven street enforcement and investigations and intelligence gathering. Key issues such as homicide clearance and coordination of local and federal activities will be promoted through training and technical assistance, and then measured for their impact in reducing violent crime rates. The President's FY 2009 budget request includes $200 million for Violent Crime Reduction Partnership grants that will support multi-jurisdictional task forces and increase the prosecution of gangs and violent criminals.
Last fall the Department awarded, on a competitive basis, $75 million for 106 task forces to 103 state and local law enforcement agencies to target specific violent crime challenges in their jurisdictions and regions. The initiative is driven by the intelligence-led policing strategy, which requires the use of data-driven law enforcement responses to prevent and control crime as opposed to simply responding when crime occurs. The 106 task forces funded under this initiative are required to work in a multi-jurisdictional fashion and to partner with at least one federal law enforcement entity such as the FBI, ATF, DEA, USMS and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office. The task forces are located throughout the United States and address issues including gun violence, gang violence, and drug-related violence. A strong set of performance measures is in place to closely track the performance of the initiative in addressing the violent crime problems.
The Weed and Seed Program is a community-based multi-agency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and neighborhood restoration. "Weeding" consists of law enforcement and community policing, and "seeding" consists of efforts designed to prevent, intervene in, and treat social ills and to restore the vitality of neighborhoods. Weed and Seed gives communities experiencing high crime and social and economic distress a comprehensive structure, critical planning tools, and access to national networks focused on crime prevention, citizen safety, and neighborhood revitalization. There are nearly 300 Weed and Seed sites across the country. In FY 2007 over 270 communities received Weed and Seed funding, including 38 new communities.
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Understanding how gangs and gun crime fuel violent crime problems in certain areas, the Justice Department has developed two (2) complementary programs: the Violent Crime Impact Teams (VCIT), which focuses on firearms crimes in a specific location, and Safe Streets Task Forces (SSTF), which aims to dismantle gangs and reduce violent crime by investigating and prosecuting gangs as criminal enterprises. The Justice Department ensures a high level of coordination between these two programs and other violent crime reduction efforts. Any proposal for a new violent crime task force goes through a process at the Department to ensure that there is a need for federal involvement and that there is no overlap with existing task forces, and to ensure coordination with other law enforcement efforts in the area.
The mission of ATF-led VCIT is to reduce the occurrence of firearms-related violent crime in small, geographic areas experiencing an increase in violent crime. The teams achieve this mission by identifying hot spots of violent firearms crime and targeting, investigating, and arresting the "worst of the worst" criminals responsible for violent firearms crime. The VCIT strategy is an integrated federal, state, and local law enforcement strategy that employs a variety of innovative technologies, investigative techniques, and analytical resources. The ability of the VCIT to focus on a small target area and flood the area with the integrated resources of other federal, state, and local partners is critical to the success of the program. Currently, 31 Violent Crime Impact Teams operate nationwide. Since its launch in 2004, VCIT partners have arrested more than 13,400 gang members, drug dealers, felons in possession of firearms, and other violent criminals, including more than 2,650 identified as "worst of the worst" criminals and have recovered more than 16,440 firearms.
The FBI-led SSTF focuses on dismantling organized gangs by addressing them as criminal enterprises. The FBI operates 185 SSTFs in 54 of its 56 field offices, including 144 focused on violent gangs and 41 focused on violent crime. Task forces combine available resources to tackle gang-related violent crime using long-term, proactive investigations into the criminal activities of a gang's leadership hierarchy. More than 2,200 federal, state, and local gang investigators participate in these vital efforts.
As demonstrated by the NDTS results, drugs and gangs go hand in hand. The following efforts' specific focus is narcotics trafficking, which, because of the correspondence, targets gangs as well.
As an agency member of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), DEA targets large, violent national gangs involved in significant drug trafficking. OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of its member federal agencies--which include DEA, FBI, ICE, ATF, the USMS, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Coast Guard--in cooperation with the Department of Justice Criminal Division, the Tax Division, and the 94 U.S. Attorneys Offices, as well as with state and local law enforcement. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation's drug supply. The number of new gang-related OCDETF investigations increased 17 percent from FY 2005 to FY 2007.
The DEA-led Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) Program was formed in 1995 as a way of responding to state and local law enforcement's concerns about the spread of drug trafficking and the associated violence gaining a foothold in some urban and rural areas. Because of the growth and proliferation of similar multi-jurisdictional task forces, the program was terminated in June 2007; however, DEA's 2008 appropriation provides $20.6 million for the MET program. DEA is evaluating how best to use these resources to address drug trafficking that involves criminal street gangs and violent crime. In past years the MET program has responded to requests from state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials to help stem the rise in drug-related violence and methamphetamine trafficking. Often, these MET deployments target violent gangs involved in drug trafficking activity. In FY 2007, the METs initiated 14 deployments, all of which targeted Priority Target Organizations (PTOs). Of these, 71 percent were gang related. In FY 2006, the METs initiated 31 deployments, all of which targeted PTOs. Of these, 39 percent were gang-related. Additionally, between FY 2005 and FY 2006, there was a 45 percent increase in the number of DEA's active PTO cases that involved gangs.
The Justice Department, working with state and local partners, is engaged in three large-scale efforts to ensure that fugitives, including gang related fugitives, are brought to justice.
The USMS leads six Regional Fugitive Task Forces as well as 88 district-based task forces across the country, forming the backbone of the USMS's fugitive apprehension efforts. The Marshals Service's investigative network extends to its three foreign field offices and its Regional Technical Operations Centers, which provide sophisticated electronic and air surveillance support in fugitive apprehensions at the federal, state, and local levels. In FY 2007, Deputy U.S. Marshals and their task force partners apprehended 94,693 fugitives. A total of 2,489 fugitives were gang-related.
The USMS Fugitive Safe Surrender Program is a uniquely creative initiative that encourages persons wanted for crimes to surrender to law enforcement in a faith-based or other neutral setting. The goal of Fugitive Safe Surrender is to reduce the risk to law enforcement officers who pursue fugitives, to the neighborhoods in which the fugitives hide, and to the fugitives themselves. The Department supported Surrender Operations in five cities last year: in Akron, Ohio; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and Indianapolis, Indiana. More than 3,700 fugitives safely surrendered during these operations, including 279 wanted on felonies warrants. In total, the USMS has conducted seven operations (including operations in Cleveland, Ohio and Phoenix, Arizona, in which 6,496 fugitives safely surrendered.
In 2007 the USMS led 27 Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally (FALCON) Operations across 22 states with the focus of apprehending fugitives wanted for violent offenses, gang members, and in several cities, sex offenders. More than 6,400 fugitives were arrested, clearing 8,219 warrants. Seventy-three fugitives arrested had warrants for homicide, 967 for assault, and 328 for weapons charges, and there were 300 gang members arrested. Others were arrested on narcotics charges, sex offenses, and other sex-related offenses. Additionally, 259 firearms were seized.
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The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), through the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (GLOBAL), is developing guidance and recommendations for law enforcement anti-gang intelligence units and undertaking specific strategies to improve gang intelligence sharing. Specifically, recommendations on establishing a gang intelligence unit, along with guidance on applying the criminal intelligence process to anti-gang efforts, and an assessment of gang intelligence systems are being developed. A key goal of this working group is to recommend the development of a process to allow local law enforcement gang intelligence systems to communicate seamlessly and to support those systems automatically sharing information with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File (VGTOF), which is managed by the FBI. VGTOF, a file within NCIC, will provide street officers with alerts when a known or violent gang member is stopped on the street.
BJA supports the Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) network as a means to provide state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement with resources for combating gangs. RISS is a network of six regional centers that provide secure information and intelligence sharing resources, analytical support for investigations, training, and loans of sophisticated investigative equipment as well as confidential funds for law enforcement investigations. Specifically, however, the RISS network provides a free solution for all law enforcement to share gang intelligence and related information through the RISSGang database. This web-accessible database currently contains information on over 200,000 known gang members throughout the United States and several foreign countries and is available free to all local law enforcement agencies that are members of the network. Linked with RISSGang is ATF's gang intelligence information as well as many other state and federal agencies and programs, including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) for example. Plans are underway to establish connectivity and information sharing with the GangNet system, which will exponentially increase the number of gang members available for searching by law enforcement. Additionally, the RISS network is connected to the FBI's Law Enforcement Online (LEO) and discussions with the DHS are underway regarding connectivity to the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) system.
BOP tracks Security Threat Groups, defined as groups, gangs, or inmate organizations that have been observed acting in concert to promote violence, escape, and drug or terrorist activity. During March 2008, 20,811 individual inmates in BOP custody have been identified as being affiliated with a Security Threat Group. The Special Investigative Supervisor's Office at each of the BOP's institutions identifies and collects intelligence on incarcerated gang members. All gang intelligence and activity is reported to the BOP's Sacramento Intelligence Unit, which is a multi-agency unit hosted by the BOP. In an effort to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in combating gang activity within the United States and abroad, the BOP has detailed staff to the NGIC, the GangTECC, and the NDIC, and BOP staff are assigned to the Safe Street Task Forces in 10 locations throughout the United States.
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In FY 2006 the Attorney General directed each U.S. Attorney to convene a Gang Prevention Summit in his or her district designed to explore additional opportunities in the area of gang prevention. These summits brought together law enforcement and community leaders to discuss best practices, identify gaps in services, and create a prevention plan to target at-risk youth within their individual communities. The U.S. Attorneys have held their summits, which have reached over 10,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, social service providers, prevention practitioners, and members of the faith-based community. A guidebook, U.S. Attorney Gang Prevention Resources, which identifies summit options for U.S. Attorneys to consider in planning these summits, was supported by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program is a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed elementary and middle school classroom curriculum that also includes a Families and Summer component. The program's primary objective is prevention, and it is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership. G.R.E.A.T. lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems. In FY 2006 the Department awarded nearly $15 million to 141 local law enforcement-led G.R.E.A.T. sites in 36 states. In FY 2007 the Department again awarded nearly $15 million in funding for 167 local law enforcement G.R.E.A.T. programs. The G.R.E.A.T. Program has also been adopted by the USMS and continues to be supported by ATF. Several hundred local law enforcement agencies around the country are using the program to reach thousands of youth with a positive and effective anti-gang and anti-violence curriculum.
BJA is working closely with its federal partners and through its National Gang Center to provide communities and, specifically, law enforcement with extensive training in anti-gang strategies. Relying significantly on expert state and local anti-gang officers, BJA is developing or providing the following anti-gang courses regularly: Basic Gang Enforcement for Line Officers, Advanced Gang Enforcement for Investigators, Gang Unit Commanders' Training, and Anti-Gang Training for Law Enforcement Executives.
These courses provide instruction on relevant issues including anti-gang strategies, intelligence collection and sharing, task force approaches, management and policy issues, and officer safety issues. BJA has also developed and is supporting the delivery of the "Gangs 101" course for communities, which brings together law enforcement with other community organizations to develop a common understanding and shared commitment to address the gang problem. This course is delivered through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office National Regional Community Policing Institutes (RCPI) Network and in collaboration with BJA, which provided the funding for this initiative.
BJA supports the National Gang Center (www.nationalgangcenter.gov) as a cooperative effort with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The Center provides information via the web on anti-gang announcements, training opportunities, and initiatives and includes OJJDP's National Youth Gang Center (see below), which focuses on the involvement of juveniles in gangs. In addition to web-based dissemination, the National Gang Center provides communities with training and technical assistance on anti-gang strategies and links to research and evaluation information useful to communities searching for solutions. The BJA training discussed above is developed through the resources of the National Gang Center.
The National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) assists policymakers, practitioners, and researchers in the development and implementation of effective, community-based gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies. To help policymakers and practitioners reduce youth involvement in gangs and gang-related crime, NYGC has provided training and technical assistance to selected programs receiving discretionary funding from OJJDP. These programs have included the Gang-Free Schools Program and the Gang Reduction Program. NYGC also maintains a comprehensive web site (www.iir.com/nygc/maininfo.htm) that provides gang publications and research, a gang-related Listserv, results from its annual survey, and other tools to assist communities in designing and implementing comprehensive approaches to gangs.
Initiated in 2004, the Gang Reduction Program is designed to reduce gang activity in targeted neighborhoods by incorporating a broad spectrum of research-based interventions to address the range of personal, family, and community factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency and gang activity. The program integrates local, state, and federal resources to incorporate state-of-the-art practices in prevention, intervention, and suppression. As part of this program, a Strategic Planning Tool has been developed to help communities assess and address local youth gang problems. The Gang Reduction Program funded pilot sites in four communities characterized by significant existing program investment, strong indicators of citizen involvement, and high rates of crime and gang activity. The sites are located in East Los Angeles, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; North Miami Beach, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia.
In addition to the existing anti-gang training and technical assistance provided by Department of Justice components, the Department has hosted two Gang Prevention webcasts that are accessible to the public. These webcasts share best practices in gang prevention, identify resources, support and complement the Attorney General's anti-gang initiative, emphasize a community-based approach to gang prevention and the importance of collaboration, and assist the U.S. Attorneys in implementing their district-wide anti-gang strategies. The webcasts are available through the COPS Office Response Center, 1-800-421-6770.
In partnership with the Ad Council, the Department of Justice created two PSN public service announcements (PSAs) entitled "Sounds of Gun Crime" and "Time Served." These PSAs are intended to educate youth about the perils of gun crime and the consequences of joining gangs. The announcements have been distributed to English and Spanish language radio stations nationwide and began airing in early July 2006. New TV and radio PSAs, developed with the Ad Council and Mullen Agency, debuted during the September 2007 PSN National Conference. The TV PSA entitled "Babies" shows that the loss of a child to gun violence--whether to injury, death, arrest, or jail time--deeply affects the family. The radio PSAs show the genuine pain inflicted upon real families when a family member is involved in a gun crime. In total, there has been over $140 million in donated time/space since the campaign's inception.
The Department has developed a wealth of resources and community policing solutions to assist law enforcement and communities in addressing gang problems. These include guides for police on topics such as graffiti; bullying in schools; gun violence among youthful offenders; witness intimidation; comprehensive gang prevention model programs; parent quick reference cards in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Hmong; multi-site evaluations of gang programs; innovative documents on network analysis and jail information-gathering; and a Solutions to Address Gang Crime CD-ROM available to the public for free that contains DOJ anti-gang resources and tools. These products, produced through the COPS Office, may be obtained at www.cops.usdoj.gov.
Part of the Department's prevention work focuses on providing opportunities to offenders who are reentering the community. Through prisoner reentry initiatives, including Going Home: the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, the President's Prisoner Reentry Initiative, and initiatives being developed through the Attorney General's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, the Department has provided more than $100 million to develop programming, training, and reentry strategies at the community level to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for participants.
Six U.S. Attorneys Offices are piloting the prisoner reentry coordinator program. This initiative provides intensive support, guidance, and technical assistance to local officials to develop comprehensive reentry plans that are tailored to the particular resources and needs of their individual communities. The reentry coordinators build partnerships with state and local agencies and community organizations to enhance prisoner reentry.
BJA is working collaboratively with the American Probation and Parole Association to establish a model protocol for successfully reintegrating gang-affiliated offenders into the community once they have completed their sentences. The model will include accountability as well as services and support to ensure reduced recidivism and gang affiliation among this population. The model protocol is expected to be completed and ready for pilot testing in 2008.
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Parallel with its efforts to combat gangs domestically, the Department has significantly expanded efforts to attack the links that connect transnational gang members across the region, especially in Mexico and Central America. The Department's efforts to further combat transnational gangs is part of the President's Merida Initiative, aimed at strengthening our borders, regional security, and effective law enforcement, especially against violent crime.
The Department has lead responsibility for implementing the law enforcement components of the Strategy to Combat the Threat of Criminal Gangs from Central America and Mexico, adopted by the U.S. Government in 2007. The Strategy is an important component of the overall Merida Initiative and recognizes that effectively combating violent gangs at home requires combating violent gangs abroad. A series of recent initiatives aims to reduce the danger and the violence posed by transnational gangs.
The Department continues to enhance international partnerships in the fight against transnational gangs. This strong level of regional cooperation was exhibited in the 2nd Annual International Chiefs of Police Summit on Transnational Gangs, which was held in Los Angeles in March 2008 and included senior anti-gang officials from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Canada, Nicaragua and other nations. The Summit focused on initiatives for gang prevention, information sharing, law enforcement officer exchange, and going after the region's top gang fugitives. Each of these initiatives will be presented for further action at the 4th Annual International Gang Conference in San Salvador in April 2008.
One example of the progress made by the Department of Justice is the comprehensive, four-part, regional initiative on combating transnational gangs launched by the Department in El Salvador on February 5, 2007. This initiative is strengthening efforts to identify and prosecute the most dangerous Salvadoran gang members through programs to enhance gang enforcement, fugitive apprehension, international coordination, information sharing, and training and prevention. This series of initiatives include efforts such as vetted anti-gang units, the CAFÉ Fingerprint Initiative, and increased international anti-gang training.
In fall 2007, the FBI, DOJ's Criminal Division, and the Department of State assisted El Salvador's National Civilian Police (Policia Nacional Civil, or PNC) in creating a new Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) unit to better pursue and prosecute gang members. FBI agents provide front-line training and information sharing, increasing the ability of the PNC to identify and arrest the worst offenders. FBI has agents in the country to directly support the TAG unit. At the request of El Salvador, the FBI, USMS, DEA, ATF, and other law enforcement agencies are conducting a series of joint assessments (a pilot program) of anti-gang capabilities in El Salvador, identifying the best strategic options for El Salvador in undertaking additional steps to enhance domestic and regional anti-gang efforts.
The FBI, with funding support from the State Department, has accelerated the implementation of the Central American Fingerprinting Exploitation (CAFÉ) initiative in order to better identify, track, and apprehend gang members. CAFÉ has provided equipment and training to help law enforcement agencies in El Salvador and other Central American nations acquire digital fingerprints of violent gang members and other criminals who commit crimes under different identities in different countries. FBI is working to expand the CAFÉ initiative to Guatemala and Honduras in 2008 and expects to expand the initiative to other Central American nations in the future. Complementing this step forward, the Justice Department has supported implementation of the Department of Homeland Security's Electronic Travel Document (eTD) System. This provides law enforcement officials in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador with information on Salvadoran gang members and other criminals who are being deported from the United States to their home nations after serving criminal sentences in the United States.
The United States has vastly increased its anti-gang training in Central America, including efforts through the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in San Salvador. Since 2006, the Department has led or participated in a series of four regional anti-gang training programs at the ILEA, bringing both police investigators and prosecutors from throughout the region to the Academy for anti-gang training. The curriculum covers best practices in targeting and fighting gang activity and other crimes. The Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) and the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) have developed and supported a new series of four additional anti-gang training programs at the ILEA that will stretch out into 2009.
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