Thank you all for being here – and for welcoming me back to Chicago today. I’d particularly like to thank Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel for convening this important discussion. I want to recognize Jadine [Chou], of the Chicago Public Schools, who is serving as our moderator. And I’d like to acknowledge the work of our outstanding U.S. Attorney, Zach Fardon, in helping to lead federal law enforcement efforts – and maintain strong partnerships with city and state officials – across this great city and throughout the area.
Most of all, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to be here; for lending your voices, and your unique perspectives, to this conversation; and for your ongoing commitment to frank dialogue, close collaboration, and cutting-edge innovation in pursuit of the progress we seek.
As law enforcement leaders, educators, administrators, and community advocates – but, most of all, as concerned parents – you’ve already stepped forward to offer your leadership, your support, and your skills and expertise in our efforts to combat and prevent youth violence.
Today, I want you to know that my Justice Department colleagues and I are grateful for your extraordinary work. And we’re determined to stand with you in taking it to a new level.
Chicago has made tremendous progress in bringing the homicide rate down – largely due to the efforts of many in this room. Yet, I'm sure we can all agree, there is still work to be done.
Statistics show that more than 60 percent of America’s children are exposed to crime, violence, or abuse – as victims or as witnesses – at some point in their lives. This is a staggering reality with devastating implications – and direct consequences.
For me – and I know for all of you – fighting back has always been much more than a professional obligation. As our nation’s Attorney General – and as the father of three wonderful kids – it is also a personal priority.
That’s why the work you’re doing – to rally local stakeholders to make our schools and our city streets safer – is so critical. And it’s why the Obama Administration – led, in part, by this Justice Department – has stepped to the forefront of these efforts, making an unprecedented commitment to help Chicago and other cities stem the tide of violence and protect our youngest citizens.
At the heart of this commitment is our National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. Thanks to your tireless work – under the leadership of Mayor Emanuel, the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Public Schools – this city has implemented a comprehensive, broad-based strategy to keep our young people safe, to keep them in the classroom, and to keep them on the path to success. With the strong support of the Justice Department, you’re applying innovative, data-driven strategies for contending with local challenges. And as your new report illustrates, these efforts are showing tremendous promise.
As we speak, you’re taking action to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline” by reducing out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. You’ve made significant gains in reducing arrests triggered by student misconduct and student-involved shootings. You’re ensuring that kids have safe passage to and from school. You’re supporting mentorship, tutoring, and community engagement efforts.
And as a result, as the City announced today, the Chicago Public Schools just marked the safest year on record. Graduation rates are improving. And all of this is only the beginning.
In the days ahead, the Justice Department will continue seeking ways to strengthen and institutionalize our support for Chicago’s locally-driven, multi-pronged anti-violence strategy. Under the 12 current grants administered by our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention alone, the City of Chicago and Cook County have access to more than $6.6 million to further these efforts.
Moving forward, we’ll keep building on this work – through the support of our Office of Justice Programs; through initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods and Defending Childhood; through national efforts such as President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative; and through our continued work to institutionalize the cooperative solutions you’re pioneering – not just here in Chicago, but throughout the country.
These federal resources will be essential in helping to achieve the public safety goals we share. But I also recognize – as you do – that the challenges we face can only be addressed cooperatively, by entire communities standing together – through the kind of collective action and comprehensive effort that the Mayor, Superintendent [Garry] McCarthy, and other leaders around this table are making possible.
Programs like Chicago’s own CureViolence and the Group Violence Reduction Strategy now being used by the Chicago Police Department have helped to show us what’s possible when the full community becomes involved.
Our nation’s Department of Justice is firmly committed to supporting you in this work. And we’ll continue to rely on the engagement, the expertise, and the resources that you provide.
I want to thank you, once again, for all that you do to drive our efforts forward. I am proud to count you as colleagues and partners. And I look forward to all that we must – and will – accomplish together in the months and years to come.