I am pleased to be here to announce that the Justice Department has launched a new comprehensive anti-gang initiative – and committed $2.5 million dollars – to help combat violent street gangs in targeted areas of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex.
I’d like to thank Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, Ft. Worth Police Chief Ralph Mendoza, FBI Special Agent in Charge Ralph Boelter, and U.S. Attorney Richard Roper for being here – they will each be vital to the success of this new program.
This morning, I had a chance to tour some gang-plagued areas of Dallas and meet with young people and law enforcement officers who are affected by gang violence every day. I got a small glimpse into what they see on the front lines: Gangs continue to threaten the safety and security of our Nation’s citizens.
In this area, some neighborhoods have been affected by gang assaults, armed robberies, drug and weapons trafficking, and gang shootings. Over the past seven years, Dallas has had the highest crime rate among cities of its size.
As gang members gain control of the streets, citizens become prisoners in their own homes. Any hope for the promises of the American dream gets locked away behind the deadbolts of fear and intimidation.
What’s left are devastating stories of drop-outs, unemployment, teen pregnancy, and violence.
Successfully addressing the threat of gangs across the country is necessary to protect the American dream for our children. We are already doing a lot.
Foremost, we’ve provided $30 million dollars in local grant assistance to expand the successful Project Safe Neighborhoods program to focus on violent gangs. We’ve also established ATF-led Violent Crime Impact Teams in 23 cities, which complement the work of 128 FBI-led Safe Streets Task Forces and the Department’s Weed and Seed Program.
Taken together, these successful efforts continue to heal troubled communities. Dallas already has active Project Safe Neighborhoods, Weed and Seed, and Regional Fugitive Task Force programs that focus on the gang problem and other issues. But additional attention and resources are vital here and elsewhere.
That’s why the Justice Department has selected six sites for a new pilot initiative that will help combat some of the most violent gangs across the country. Dallas is one of those sites, along with Cleveland; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Tampa; and a corridor that stretches from Easton to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Dallas will receive $2.5 million in grants to implement a comprehensive program in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to address growing gang challenges.
Under this new initiative, the U.S. Attorney will be able to better coordinate federal resources to take back the streets for law-abiding citizens. But this is a “street level” program – where local leaders help develop innovative solutions to the unique gang problem facing this community. We’ll rely on people like those community leaders and law enforcement officers I met with moments ago.
This partnership at every level of government will employ three essential strategies in the fight against gangs: prevention, prosecution, and prisoner re-entry. First, we must address the personal, family, and community factors that cause young people to choose gangs over more productive alternatives. The more success we have in prevention, the fewer people we'll have to prosecute for violent activity down the road.
The second part of the program will provide resources to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute gang members who terrorize our communities. The goal will be to lock up the most significant violent offenders.
Finally, we want to ensure that offenders returning to society don't choose violence again. This initiative will support the services and assistance – such as transitional housing, substance abuse treatment and job training assistance – that offenders need to return to a productive life outside of prison.
America is the greatest country in the world. No matter the circumstances of your birth, you can become anything you choose. But there is no future in being a member of a gang.
Throughout this metropolitan area, gangs are shattering the hopes of young people who succumb to their false promises. I believe the efforts being announced today will help us make this community safer and help ensure that the American dream is a real possibility for more Americans.