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Fact Sheet: Department of Justice Comprehensive Efforts to Fight Gang Violence
The Department of Justice has enacted a comprehensive plan across its many
components to effectively fight and limit the impact of gang violence
nationwide. This plan includes two primary elements: Prioritize prevention
programs to provide America’s youth, as well as offenders returning to the
community, with opportunities that help them resist gang involvement; and
ensure robust enforcement policies when gang-related violence does occur. This
approach also recognizes the critical need for the Department to continue to
work hand-in-hand with state and local law enforcement and local community
Focused Attention in Each District
The Department established an Anti-Gang Coordination Committee to organize
the Department’s wide-ranging efforts to combat gangs, which includes focusing
needed attention in every region.
Preventing Gang Violence
- Each United States Attorney has appointed an Anti-Gang Coordinator to
provide leadership and focus to anti-gang efforts at the district level.
- The Anti-Gang Coordinators, in consultation with their state and local
law enforcement and community partners, have developed comprehensive,
district-wide strategies to address the gang problems in their districts.
The first element in the Department’s approach to fighting gang violence
starts at the root of the problem. The Department has organized and supported
the following programs aimed at preventing youth entry into gangs, and giving
recently released prisoners an alternative to gang membership.
Coordination, Intelligence and Enforcement
- Gang Prevention Summits – In FY 2006, the Department
directed each United States 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 summits reached over 10,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, social
service providers, prevention practitioners, and members of the faith-based
- G.R.E.A.T. Program - 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 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 2007, the Department awarded nearly $15 million in funding for
167 local law enforcement G.R.E.A.T. programs.
- Gang Reduction Program – 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 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: 1) East Los Angeles 2) Milwaukee 3) North Miami Beach
and 4) Richmond, Va..
- Helping America’s Youth Initiative – DOJ has played a
major role in the President’s Helping America’s Youth initiative led by First
Lady Laura Bush. This initiative features an online Community Guide that aids
community coalitions in developing strategic gang and juvenile crime prevention
programs, and provides a database of effective prevention programs.
- In addition, the DOJ has long supported gang prevention activities such
as the National Youth Gang Center, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America,
while also developing gang prevention webcasts and publications which assist
law enforcement and communities in addressing gang problems.
- 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.
Through the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), Gang Targeting,
Enforcement, and Coordination Center (Gang TECC), and Gang Squad the Department
has established national coordination on intelligence and enforcement
mechanisms aimed at dismantling the most significant violent national and
Coordination: The GangTECC brings together all of the
operational components of the Department, as well as other agencies within the
Federal Government to ensure that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared
among law enforcement agencies, and serves as a central coordinating center for
multi-jurisdictional gang investigations involving federal law enforcement
Intelligence: The 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
Enforcement: The Criminal Division’s Gang Squad is a core
team of experienced anti-gang prosecutors who serve as the prosecutorial arm of
the Department’s efforts to achieve maximum national impact against violent
Expanding Programs that Work
Project Safe Neighborhoods: In May 2001, President Bush
announced Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a comprehensive initiative to
reduce gun crime in America. 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.
Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative: In April 2007, the
Department expanded the “Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative” from six to 10
sites nationwide. The initiative provides $2.5 million in targeted grant
funding to each of the ten sites to implement a three prong strategy in the
fight against gangs: prevention, enforcement and prisoner re-entry. The 10
sites include Los Angeles; Tampa, Fla; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas/Ft. Worth;
Milwaukee, Wis.; Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s “222 Corridor” which
stretches from Easton to Lancaster; Rochester, N.Y.; Oklahoma City;
Indianapolis, Ind.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
- In FY 2007, the Department prosecuted 12,087 defendants on federal
firearms cases. Nearly 94 percent of those offenders received prison terms and
nearly 75 percent were sentenced to three or more years in prison.
- From FY 2001 to 2007, the Department of Justice has filed 68,543 cases
against 83,106 defendants for federal firearms violations. This represents
more than a 100 percent increase over the prior seven year period.
Initiative for Safer Communities
- Focused enforcement efforts under the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative
are showing strong early results. In Cleveland, one of the most violent gangs
and their associates, operating in and around the target area, have 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
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, provide assistance to state and local law
enforcement, and strengthen laws and increase funding. These efforts
Supporting Local Law Enforcement
- Focus on the “Worst of the Worst" - The Department,
working with state and local law enforcement, identifies cases that focus on
the “worst of the worst” offenders.
- Coordinated Fugitive Sweeps and Take downs - The
Department has conducted coordinated fugitive sweeps and take downs in cities
such as Cleveland; Modesto/Bakersfield, Calif.; Trenton/Newark/Jersey City,
N.J.; Dallas; Gadsden, Ala.; and Los Angeles; and conducted Fugitive Safe
Surrender operations in Akron, Ohio, Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.;
Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis, Ind..
- Expansion of Task Forces – ATF expanded their Violent
Crime Impact Teams (VCITs) to 31 cities, which includes teams in Los Angeles
and San Bernardino, Calif; and the FBI has increased the number of Safe Street
Task Forces (SSTFs) to 185, with 144 focusing on violent gangs and 41 focusing
on violent crime. , and the FBI has increased the number of Safe Street Task
Forces (SSTFs) to 185, with 144 focusing on violent gangs and 41 focusing on
- PSN Comprehensive Anti-Gang Training – 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. The training has or will be offered in the
following areas: Chapel Hill, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Oklahoma City, Rochester,
N.Y.; Spokane, Wash.; Mesa, Ariz.; Houston; Birmingham, Ala.; Salt Lake City;
Sacramento, Calif.; Lexington, Ky.; and, Lincoln, Neb..
- Targeting Violent Crime Initiative – The Department
awarded nearly $75 million for 106 task forces to 103 state and local law
enforcement agencies to target specific violent crime challenges in their
jurisdiction and region. 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 task forces are located throughout the U.S. and address
issues including gun violence, gang violence, and drug-related violence.
- Violent Crime and Anti-Terrorism Act of 2007 – The
Department’s proposed comprehensive legislation meant to ensure that federal
law enforcement agencies are able to successfully investigate and prosecute
many types of violent crime. The proposed bill would improve existing criminal
laws to close gaps and strengthen penalties, provide greater flexibility in the
penalties that could be imposed on federal firearms licensees who knowingly
violate the Gun Control Act, and restore the binding nature of sentencing
guidelines. The bill also includes provisions that strengthen laws pertaining
to drug enforcement, terrorism and child pornography.
Combatting Transnational Gangs
- 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. The nearly
$75 million in grants awarded in FY 2007 through the Targeting Violent Crime
Initiative is considered an initial demonstration of the approach proposed in
the President’s budget.
The Department’s comprehensive gang strategy also involves working with the
Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and our international
partners to fight gangs that operate both in the United States and other
countries. These efforts include:
- The Merida Initiative and U.S. Anti-Gang Efforts -
Parallel with its efforts to combat gangs domestically, the Department has
drastically 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.
- U.S. Anti-Gang Strategy – 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 a key 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
aim to reduce the danger and the violence posed by transnational gangs. As part
of this strategy, the Department announced in June 2007 the indictment by the
Criminal Division’s Gang Squad and the United States Attorney’s Office for the
District of Maryland of two leaders of the transnational street gang La Mara
Salvatrucha (MS-13), who were alleged to have directed the murder of rival gang
members in the United States from their prison cells in El Salvador.
- Improved International Coordination – The Department
continues to enhance international partnerships in the fight against
- Anti-Gang Initiatives – 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. These initiatives are 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
- Vetted Anti-Gang Units – In fall 2007 the FBI, the
Department’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.
- CAFÉ Fingerprint Initiative - The FBI, with funding
support from the State Department, has accelerated the implementation of the
Central American Fingerprinting Exploitation (CAFE) initiative in order to
better identify, track and apprehend gang members. CAFE 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
implement by the Department of Homeland Security of its 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 U.S. to their home nations after
serving criminal sentences in the U.S.
- International Anti-Gang Training - The U.S. 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