Department of Justice Seal
DAG Remarks to
Office of Justice Programs
Annual Conference on Criminal Justice
Research and Evaluation: Enhancing Policy and Practice

Monday, July 23, 2001
Washington, DC

Good afternoon. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you this afternoon. I have reviewed this year's program of presenters and topics, and I can see why this conference each year attracts the leading researchers and practitioners in the criminal justice field. I understand that not too long ago, it would have been difficult to find a national conference on criminal justice where researchers and practitioners were engaged in a shared pursuit of useful knowledge. Today that is no longer the case.

I would like to acknowledge the role the Office of Justice Programs has played in bringing these two communities together — and working together, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished.

I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in social science and, therefore, have a keen interest in, and appreciation for, the work that you do.

I believe the Justice Department can learn from your leadership in this area. At Justice, we need to continue to ensure that new research findings get top-level attention and that relevant findings are understood and used by our operational components, as so many of you who are practitioners and policymakers at the state and local level have been doing so successfully for years. We cannot afford to view research and evaluation as isolated endeavors, but we must view them as an integral part of our efforts to administer justice and to improve the operations of the federal, state, and local criminal and juvenile justice systems.

I believe that for too long, we’ve based criminal justice policy and practice on assumptions about what we thought would work, rather than on sound evidence and knowledge from research and evaluation. We need evidence-based driven crime policies. We need to infuse our programming and funding decisions with the best available facts, analysis, statistics, and science. We need you to continue the kind of high quality research you’ve done over the past 30 years – research that’s already made an enormous contribution to the criminal justice field.

Thanks in large part to your work, we now know more about what works in preventing and controlling crime than we’ve ever known before. Researchers and practitioners have learned to work together and have partnered to turn research results into practice. And crime has fallen and continues to fall.

But confronting crime is a continual challenge. While we’ve made important progress in reducing crime and improving the justice system, we still have a long way to go to ensure the safety of our communities. There are many persistent issues for researchers and practitioners to resolve. And there are new challenges to address in this changing world.

For example, although drug abuse in the United States is down from 20 years ago, it remains unacceptably high – especially among teenagers.

The rate of illegal drug abuse among teens is higher than in the population in general. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, approximately nine percent of youths age 12–17 were current users of illegal drugs in 1999. That figure is down 21 percent since 1997, but substantially higher than the 5.3 percent found by the Household Survey in 1992. The number of young adults, ages 18–25, who have used drugs in the past month also continues to rise.

In addition to the threats posed by traditional drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, today's youth must deal with a wave of new drugs. Synthetic "club drugs" such as Ecstasy, or MDMA, have become popular among youth.

The Department of Justice will be aggressive in its efforts to combat existing and emerging drug problems. The Department has put together a task force to develop a drug control strategy that is evidence-based and cost-effective.

Fueling this effort is your research, data, and programmatic experience. I am pleased to see that this conference agenda includes presentations on the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (or ADAM as it is called), evaluations of drug courts, and evaluations of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment programs.

The National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) ADAM program tracks trends in the prevalence and types of drug use among booked arrestees in urban areas. The ADAM program currently operates in 35 sites and the Administration has requested an additional $5 million in 2002 to expand the ADAM program to 50 sites nationally. ADAM data play an important role in assembling the national picture of drug abuse in the arrestee population and have been a central component in studying the links between drug use and crime.

Meth production and use have been on the rise over the past few years, and the number of meth laboratories has increased dramatically across the country. Meth lab enforcement and clean-up efforts are complicated by the presence of hazardous materials produced during the manufacturing process. Cleaning up these labs is a costly and risky business. The 2002 budget includes $20 million to assist State and local law enforcement agencies with the costs associated with meth cleanup, along with $28 million to aid meth enforcement.

There have been important programmatic innovations in adjudications for dealing with the problem of illegal drugs. Drug courts are an efficient and cost effective way to help non-violent drug offenders commit to a drug treatment program in lieu of jail. The Department of Justice will support local drug courts that combine drug testing with effective monitoring at the level of $50 million in 2002.

Research has shown that drug treatment in prisons can and does reduce recidivism. This research was influential in encouraging the expansion of this program to $74 million in 2002 for the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program, which provides grants supporting drug and alcohol treatment in state and local correctional facilities.

As the United States Attorney in Atlanta, I witnessed the ravages of drug trafficking violence. Too many of our communities have been devastated by drug markets and by the violence associated with ruthless drug gangs. We have all been horrified by reports of stray bullets killing children who were simply standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. The criminal justice system itself has been threatened by violent intimidation and witness retaliation. That’s why the Attorney General and the Department of Justice have instituted the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

Over $550 million will be dedicated to this effort to reduce gun violence over the next two years. This funding will be used to hire new federal and state prosecutors, to support investigators, to provide training, to develop and promote community outreach efforts. Every newly appointed United States Attorney will lead the way by establishing strategic partnerships to reduce gun violence.

Project Safe Neighborhoods has five core elements. Let me briefly discuss these elements for this important effort. The first element is building effective partnerships. The U.S. Attorney in each judicial district will bring together all law enforcement agencies to ensure a uniform and comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence. Each U.S. Attorney will establish a task force, consisting of federal and local officials, to review and prepare gun cases for prosecution in the most appropriate forum.

The second element is strategic planning. The strategic plans, like the specific gun violence problem, will vary from one community to another. In one area, a pro-active plan to target violent gangs may be appropriate, while in another area, a plan to target illegal gun possessors may be more effective. The goal is the same: to reduce gun violence.

Strategic planning begins with intelligence gathering. Crime data must be analyzed to identify the nature, type, frequency and locations of firearms violence. In addition to traditional sources of information, such as the Uniform Crime Report, and data systems from ATF and local police departments, partnerships will be encouraged to take advantage of technologies such as crime mapping, gun tracing and ballistics identification.

The third element is training. The Justice Department will partner with the ATF, the National District Attorneys Association, and local law enforcement to conduct innovative regional cross-training involving prosecutors and agents participating in gun crime enforcement.

The fourth element is outreach. U.S. Attorneys will work with existing coalitions and establish new coalitions within each community to increase awareness and participation --awareness that those who use guns in the commission of crimes indeed will have to understand and endure the consequences.

The final element is accountability. A critical component of a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan is understanding the impact of efforts. Enforcement efforts are traditionally measured by counting the number of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions ("outputs") rather than the impact these law enforcement efforts have on reducing crime ("outcomes"). This initiative includes resources to assist the U.S. Attorneys to measure the short- and long- term impact of the programs they implement.

Project Safe Neighborhoods builds on the pioneering work of many of you. Many of the elements of the initiative were developed in Boston’s Operation Ceasefire project and Project Exile in Richmond.

We are excited about implementing Project Safe Neighborhoods across the country. We hope it will have the benefit of reducing gun violence and associated crime in our communities, while improving the public’s trust and confidence in the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, violence is all too often much closer to home and, in fact, in the home. This kind of violence has serious consequences, especially for children. For example, research suggests that children in homes where domestic violence occurs are physically abused or seriously neglected at a rate 1500 percent higher than the national average. We need to know more about how to effectively intervene with families that experience this type of violence.

I am pleased to see that several of the conference presentations focus on family violence. I am particularly interested in the panel on the long-term consequences of violence against children, and the research aimed at attempting to reduce repeat victimization. I look forward to hearing about the results. The 2002 budget will allow you to continue this important work. The Violence Against Women Act again this year includes a $5 million set-aside for research and evaluation as well as an additional $5 million for research on family violence.

I’d like to talk for just a couple of minutes about what I see as three of the critical areas where research and evaluation can make a significant contribution to our justice system: DNA evidence, cybercrime, and police use of force.

I understand that this morning’s panel presentation on connections between physical science and social science; DNA databases and criminal behavior was fascinating.

Consider how far we have come since DNA evidence was first introduced into criminal court proceedings in the United States in 1986. Today, every state in the nation allows the introduction of this kind of evidence. Now, we are moving to a time when DNA evidence will be a quick, readily available, and inexpensive in many cases. Today, DNA is most commonly used to solve homicide and rape cases. In the future, we will have the power to use DNA evidence to solve other crimes where there is biological evidence for DNA analysis.

These advances are both exciting and daunting. As DNA technology gets cheaper and easier to use; as officers get better at identifying and collecting DNA evidence from crime scenes; and, as states expand the definition of offenses under which convicted offenders must contribute DNA samples, we are increasing the DNA backlog. This problem will only get worse unless the Federal government and the states continue to support funding for reducing the backlog of samples for DNA analysis. The Administration has requested $35 million in 2002 to help reduce DNA backlogs.

Another enormous challenge for the criminal justice system involves crime in which the Internet is the target or the instrument. By one estimate, cybercrime increased almost 500 percent in a single 3-year period. In the 6-month period after the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center was launched, it logged nearly 20,000 complaints. The monetary toll is staggering: the FBI estimates that electronic crimes cost $10 billion per year. The Attorney General has asked for additional resources for the FBI and for U.S. Attorneys to combat cybercrime.

This funding will help but we need research to focus on this problem, as well. We need better data on the extent and impact of cybercrime. We need to know how police and prosecutors can better combat this crime.

I understand that the Office of Justice Programs is doing some important work on cybercrime. For example, NIJ’s publication State and Local Law Enforcement - Need to Combat Electronic Crime lays a solid foundation for where we need to go in this area – providing important state and local perspectives on cybercrime, system vulnerability, legal issues and the prosecution, and needed training.

The work of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is also critical to developing a better understanding of this problem. BJS has been working to collect data on cybercrime – measuring the changes in the incidence, magnitude, and consequences of cybercrime. I am pleased to know that all of this work is underway. Combating cybercrime will take all of our efforts.

The final issue I’d like to raise today concerns the police. Over the past 10 years, there’s been a growing level of police professionalism, a pro-active response to crime and safety issues, and a national shift toward progressive community policing that involves citizens in our problem-solving efforts and deploys police in more effective ways to prevent and fight crime.

But we also know that there are communities where distrust and tensions are high between the police and those they serve.

High-profile incidents involving the use of force, whatever the circumstances, fuel mistrust and create hostility. This is especially true where racial bias or stereotypes are thought to play a role in the decision of whether to use force or how much force to use. These problems are not limited to any one department or any one community. They are national in scope and touch people everywhere.

Essential to making continued progress in the fight against violent crime is establishing a solid, trusting relationship between the police and the communities they serve. But this relationship can only be fostered if we address head on the concerns and questions that persist. Research and evaluation can play a critical role in helping to find answers in this difficult area.

For example, does our police training adequately prepare officers for everyday encounters, as well as violent confrontations? What "disengagement" techniques are successful in helping an officer avoid situations where he or she may have to use force? What is the role of various less-than-lethal weapons, such as pepper spray, bean bag rounds, nets, or shocking devices in minimizing police use of force?

We need further research and evaluation in this area to help find common ground, to develop "best practices" for interactions and to build trust between law enforcement and the public, including minority communities. I am pleased to see that four panels at this week’s conference deal with these difficult issues. I commend you efforts. They are very important.

I want to thank you for all you’ve already done to help our nation find solutions to some of the difficult questions posed by these and other issues. I urge you to continue to tackle the tough issues, to ask the hard questions, to tell us what we’ve done right, and when we’ve failed.

You may be sure that the Justice Department, the criminal justice community, and the nation eagerly await new findings that can help point the way for the future of our justice system. I look forward to learning from you.

Thank you.