Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Weed and Seed Event [NOTE: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFTEN DEVIATES FROM PREPARED REMARKS] Albuquerque, New Mexico August 14, 2001
I'm happy to be here in Albuquerque and to have this opportunity to see first hand the outstanding work your community is doing to drive crime out of the neighborhoods and to make them safe places for families to live, work, and play.
I thank interim US Attorney Norman Bay and Mayor Jim Baca for your leadership in these efforts. I would also like to recognize the community partners whose contributions and cooperation have made this program work.
I particularly want to recognize the cooperation between your police department - under the direction of Chief Gerald Galvin - and federal law enforcement agencies in working together to reduce gun violence through Project Exile.
We've seen how this kind of partnership can reduce gun crimes in Albuquerque and cities across the country by holding gun criminals accountable.
I also congratulate the City Council for passing legislation that will further reduce gun crimes in your neighborhoods - particularly by young people.
This law allows police to confiscate cars from youths who illegally possess a firearm in their vehicle. It sends a message to young people - and others who would use guns illegally - that gun violence will not be tolerated.
That's a message President Bush and I are working to send throughout the country through our major new initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun crime in America by networking existing local programs that target gun crime - programs like Project Exile - and to provide those programs with additional tools to be successful.
Project Safe Neighborhoods builds on the efforts of Albuquerque and the almost 300 other Weed and Seed sites across the country.
I'm pleased that the Justice Department has been able to support your efforts through grants totaling $600,000 since 1998.
Today, it is my privilege to announce that we're awarding an additional $225,000 to continue the Albuquerque Weed and Seed program in 2001.
In the past four years you've reached out to the Hispanic, Native American and Asian American communities to build safer neighborhoods; you've created partnerships with the health and faith-based communities; established two safe havens in your two community centers; and set up bike patrols and a mobile police substation.
The people of the Trumbull and the La Mesa communities created a community garden from an area once known as the "War Zone." Where once only devastation bloomed, you're now growing a bounty of produce for use by local residents.
At the same time, you've worked to close down open air drug markets and drug houses; eliminate gang violence; and reduce vice and related crimes.
Congratulations on your work. Here in Albuquerque it is the members of this community in coordination with law enforcement that is making a difference - block by block, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood - for the future of the children here today.
Thank you all for your outstanding commitment to your community, and keep up the good work.