Remarks of the Honorable David J. Hickton
United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
At The 2012 Gang and Public Safety Awareness Conference
Cranberry Township, PA
Good morning and welcome to the annual Gang and Public Safety Awareness Conference.
Protecting the American people from violent crime continues to be a top priority of the Department of Justice. In recent decades we have seen an overall reduction in the rate of violent crime. And we have made great strides in confronting the violence that has stolen too many innocent lives.
The Department of Justice has engaged with local officials, community leaders, and law enforcement at all levels to help develop collaborative strategies for preventing and combating all forms of violent crime.
A successful violent crime reduction program requires tailored solutions to address the needs of individual communities. And the sheer size of state and local law enforcement resources, when compared to federal resources, dictates that federal involvement must supplement, not supplant, local efforts.
The Department’s role in reducing violent crime focuses on partnering with state and local law enforcement to help address the most significant local challenges; using grants to enable local communities to develop and implement innovative programs for combating violence; and tackling uniquely federal issues.
Through the more than 150 Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Forces, U.S. Attorneys and their offices are on the front lines of preventing and prosecuting gun-, gang- and drug-related violence.
These task forces, consisting of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors – along with research and media outreach partners and community leaders who specialize in prevention, reentry and education – are proving effective, according to recent research showing major reductions in gunrelated crimes in neighborhoods where PSN has operated.
One of the most successful aspects of the partnerships PSN has developed is the strong working relationship that has grown between federal and state prosecutors’ offices and state and local law enforcement in jurisdictions across the country. Together, we have developed strategies for using targeted federal prosecutions to supplement state and local efforts.
The Department of Justice is particularly interested in promoting not only innovative, but also evidence-based, programs, so that all of those with a stake in reducing violent crime can learn and borrow ideas from one another.
More than $2.7 million in Project Safe Neighborhoods grant funding has been awarded directly to law enforcement and community organizations for the reduction of violent crime in Western Pennsylvania.
This year alone, we are using Project Safe Neighborhood grants to fund overtime for Task force officers assigned to the ATF from the Pittsburgh and Erie Police departments, the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office and the Pennsylvania State Police.
We are paying for saturation patrols at the city, county and state level.
We are funding a collaborative violence reduction strategy in Erie County and a re-entry job readiness program to supplement U.S. Probation's Workforce Development Program.
We are backing a gang prevention and vocational training strategy for at-risk young men in violent communities and expanding the highly-successful Mad Dads neighborhood street patrol program beyond Wilkinsburg.
We purchased bullet resistant vests for every member of the Allegheny County Probation Office's High Impact Probation Officers and Warrant Unit and funded outreach workers for Pittsburgh's Gang Free schools initiative.
Finally, we are using Project Safe Neighborhoods grant funding to provide this Gang and Public Safety Awareness Conference, where you will hear from experts like Lt. Dave Grossman and retired lieutenant Richard Hobson.
Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, we are making a powerful difference. But we cannot do it alone. We must also enlist the assistance of our communities, our schools, and our faith-based, corporate and social service organizations. We need you.
Thank you for all that you do every day to ensure the safety of our communities. Now let's get to work.