Skip to main content
CRM 1000-1499

1459. Department Memorandum -- Anti-Violent Crime Initiative -- May 1996

May 13, 1996

MEMORANDUM TO ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE: United States Attorneys Offices, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Division,United States Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration,Immigration and Naturalization Service, Office of Justice Programs Community Relations Service

FROM: The Attorney General; Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation;Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration;

Director, United States Marshals Service; Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service;Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division; Chair, Attorney General's Advisory Committee; Director, Executive Office of United States Attorneys; Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs; Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Acting Director, Community Relations Service

RE: Anti-Violent Crime Initiative/Youth Violence

It has been almost two years since we announced the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative. Your outstanding effort in establishing coordinated strategies with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies has had a substantial impact on some of the most serious violent crime problems in your districts. We now need a similar, coordinated response to expand and reinforce our ongoing efforts to combat the crisis of juvenile violence. This is an issue of substantial importance to the Department of Justice, and it is important that the employees of the components working on this issue understand how we will address this challenge. For this reason, we are taking the extraordinary step of jointly sending this memorandum to all of you.

While the increase in violent crimes committed by adults appears to be easing, juvenile violent crime is projected to escalate. Between 1985 and 1994, arrests of juveniles for violent crime increased 75 percent, while the number of murders committed by juveniles using guns more than tripled. What makes this problem worse is that by the year 2010, the number of juveniles age 15 to 17 is expected to grow by more than 22 percent. If current trends persist, we will see further dramatic increases in juvenile violent crime -- unless we take action now.

We all recognize that law enforcement initiatives alone will not be sufficient to stem the rising tide of youth violence unless they are joined with efforts to keep children from becoming involved in crime. We also know that the majority of this work must be undertaken by state and local officials. Nevertheless, federal law enforcement agencies have a critical role to play in fighting youth violence by investigating and prosecuting certain serious juvenile offenders and adults who involve juveniles in federal criminal activities. Further, these agencies can, through their leadership and infrastructure, support and enhance state and local initiatives -- both law enforcement and otherwise -- to fight youth violence.

With this in mind, we are taking significant steps to address this emerging problem. First, the Attorney General recently appointed a senior Department official to serve as Counsellor to the Attorney General for Youth Violence. In this position, Kent Markus will work to ensure that the Department's efforts to combat youth violence are coordinated and kept at a high priority.

Second, the Attorney General recently announced the release of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's report entitled, Combating Violence and Delinquency: The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan. This document outlines eight objectives that Americans should engage in to fight youth violence. For each key objective, the Action Plan reviews effective strategies and programs from across the nation, describes federal initiatives to assist states and localities, and gives state and local officials and the public information on establishing community-based initiatives to fight youth violence.

Third, the Department of Justice is proposing major revisions to the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act. As many of you have noted, the present federal system is ill-equipped to respond to extremely violent youthful offenders. This legislation, if passed, will simplify federal juvenile prosecutions and will closely follow state statutes which allow certain serious and violent juveniles to be prosecuted as adults. Although we do not necessarily anticipate an increase in the number of juveniles prosecuted federally, this legislation will better enable us to bring successful prosecutions in appropriate cases.[FN1]

FN1.We note that pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 5032, provisions regarding adult prosecution of certain juvenile offenders may not apply to persons subject to the criminal jurisdiction of an Indian tribal government unless the governing body of the tribe has elected to have such provisions have effect over land and persons subject to its jurisdiction.

Fourth, in an attempt to ease the restrictions of the existing system, the Attorney General has delegated to United States Attorneys the authority to determine whether to seek the transfer of juveniles for adult prosecution. In addition, because the prosecution and detention of juveniles often involve unique problems, we have designated individuals at the United States Marshals Service, Bureau of Prisons, and Criminal Division to provide you with assistance when issues cannot be solved at the local level.[FN2] We have also scheduled seminars and prepared manuals for prosecutors and others to provide guidance on issues related to the prosecution of violent juvenile offenders.

FN2.The contacts are: Kristine M. Marcy, Assistant Director for Prisoner Services, United States Marshals Service, (703) 416-8900; James L. Beck, Assistant Administrator, Bureau of Prisons, (202) 307-3171; and E. Thomas Roberts, Terrorism and Violent Crime Section, Criminal Division, (202) 307-3950 or (202) 514-0849.

Finally, and most significantly, the Department of Justice will undertake a comprehensive strategy to combat the crisis of juvenile violence as part of the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative. This strategy will build on our ongoing efforts under the Initiative and should involve all pertinent law enforcement agencies, as well as broad-based community action. As we mentioned above, the response to juvenile crime has been the traditional responsibility of state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, we must recognize that given the nature of the problem, a coordinated federal/state/tribal/local effort to reduce youth violence is appropriate and necessary.

While each district is best equipped to evaluate its particular crime problems, your Anti-Violent Crime strategy should include a focus on violent youth gangs and on those adults who use or involve juveniles in unlawful activity. It should also assure that, when appropriate, the most violent juvenile offenders will be prosecuted as adults. Finally, it should use every tool available to stem the flow of guns to children. With this in mind, we believe there are certain guiding principles that exemplify how these goals can be reached.

Your strategies should use existing federal, state and local partnerships to develop a comprehensive approach to juvenile violence.[FN3]

FN3.We note that some state and local law enforcement officials have expressed concern that federal laws and regulations may place restrictions on the use or sharing of juvenile criminal history records by law enforcement agencies. An initial analysis by the Department of Justice finds that while there are no federal restrictions on the use of juvenile criminal history records by law enforcement agencies, there may be state laws which limit how such records can be used. The Department is currently preparing guidance for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with respect to accessing a range of records concerning juveniles.

In shaping and implementing your strategy, districts should coordinate their plans using the federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement partnerships that were formed or enhanced under the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative. Suggestions for these efforts include:

  • violent crime task forces composed of Department of Justice and other federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies that focus on investigations of gangs and drug traffickers that involve juveniles;
  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces that focus on youth offenders using firearms in drug conspiracies;
  • task forces composed of federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies that address juvenile gun possession by focusing on adults who unlawfully sell/distribute handguns to juveniles or by tracing firearms seized from juveniles;
  • Law Enforcement Coordinating Committees that facilitate training on juvenile issues among federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies; and
  • Empowerment Zones, Weed and Seed neighborhoods, the Comprehensive Communities Program, PACT and SafeFutures sites, and other community-based initiatives to focus resources on juvenile violence.

Further, in order to reinforce existing partnerships and enhance cooperation, districts should consider approaches that include:

  • cross-designating state prosecutors and Assistant U.S. Attorneys to assist each other in the prosecution of violent juveniles;
  • establishing a network among gang investigators to facilitate juvenile case referrals;
  • sharing information and creating databases to identify geographic areas having a high incidence of juvenile gun violence;
  • providing training to state and local prosecutors in the identification of cases which may qualify for prosecution under federal statutes;
  • coordinating state and local firearms tracing efforts with ATF to determine if we can identify and effectively target those who supply guns to juveniles;
  • coordinating with HUD and other public housing officials to develop strategies to deal with gangs and violent juveniles in those facilities.

The strategies should recognize that federal prosecution of juvenile offenders is warranted in certain instances to assure that appropriate sanctions are being imposed.

Effective implementation of your strategies requires the coordination of prosecutive decision making with state and local prosecutors who traditionally have the primary responsibility to prosecute juveniles. In most instances, state and local juvenile justice systems will be able to provide the appropriate sanctions and resources to deal with juvenile offenders. However, there may be instances where federal prosecution is warranted. Priority areas for federal prosecution may include the following:

Violent crimes committed by juveniles, particularly in cases involving one or more of these factors:

  • the juvenile is a member of a violent gang or major drug organization;
  • the juvenile has a violent criminal history;
  • the case involves violent conduct occurring in multiple jurisdictions;
  • there is evidence that the juvenile has recruited younger juveniles to engage in criminal activity;
  • the juvenile has committed violent crime, or repeated crimes on federal enclaves, including Indian reservations;
  • the violent crime resulted in death or serious bodily injury to the victim.
  • Adults who use juveniles to assist in committing federal crimes;
  • Adults who unlawfully provide weapons to juveniles, particularly:
    • where it can be proved that the adult knew or had reasonable cause to know that the juvenile intended to use the weapon in the commission of a crime of violence, or
    • in a case involving multiple sales or transfers of firearms to juveniles;
    • Juveniles who are engaged in weapons trafficking; and
    • Juvenile weapons possession in specific areas, such as schools, public or assisted housing, or recreational facilities.

In cases involving juveniles, federal, state, and local prosecutors should decide how the case may best be handled. A key factor in that decision will be a comparison of the potentially applicable statutes and sanctions. In many instances, because of the availability of state statutes, the districts will defer to the states to prosecute cases of juvenile handgun possession. In other instances, federal prosecutions will be undertaken.

The strategies should include a plan to work with local officials and educators to provide safe havens for our children especially in our schools.

It is important to focus our limited federal resources on places where children and teenagers should feel safe -- at home, at school, and in recreation centers. Children should not be afraid to go to school because of gun violence. The President has directed vigorous enforcement of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 (GFSA) which provides expulsion for students who carry guns to schools.[FN4] Importantly, the GFSA also requires school officials to report gun incidents in schools to criminal justice or juvenile delinquency authorities. We urge each of you, along with state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies, to meet with school officials in your district to develop referral mechanisms that are prompt and fair.

FN4.The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 should not be confused with the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. In U.S. v. Lopez (115 S.Ct. 1624), the Supreme Court found that the provision of the Gun-Free School Zones Act, codified as 18 U.S.C. § 922(q), which made it a federal offense for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm in a place that individual believes or has reasonable cause to believe is a school zone, violates the Commerce Clause. The Department of Justice has drafted legislation which would amend the statute by requiring prosecutors to prove that the firearm had been involved in interstate commerce.

Your plans may want to utilize some of the following strategies to enhance the cooperation between law enforcement and school officials:

  • using Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Deputy U.S. Marshals, FBI agents, DEA agents, INS agents, and others to educate students about the hazards and criminal consequences of carrying guns;
  • developing a school program in which ex-offenders (e.g., convicted felons, former gang members or others) warn children about the consequences of violent or gun-related criminal conduct;
  • exploring the possibility of using asset forfeiture funds, or tapping other funding sources, to fund anti-gun programs, such as metal detectors, safe corridor programs, hotlines, or other efforts that are appropriate for the jurisdiction.

The district plans should also include law enforcement approaches to the problem, such as:

  • meeting with school officials and security personnel, as well as state and local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, to establish a system to coordinate criminal referrals;
  • identifying cases for prosecution in schools with a history of violence or incidents of gun possession;
  • coordinating with local law enforcement, school officials and ATF to assure that all guns seized from juveniles or at schools are traced; and
  • conducting a limited amnesty program for students who wish to turn in guns, followed by prosecution of juveniles possessing handguns after the amnesty program has ended.

Finally, the strategies should involve broad-based community action to enhance public awareness and utilize effective programs for prevention and intervention.

Many federal prosecutors recognize the importance of being involved in efforts beyond prosecution to deter juveniles from engaging in criminal activity. We know that the problem of juvenile violence cannot be addressed by prosecution alone. As the leaders of the law enforcement community in your jurisdiction, you have the unique ability to bring together state and local officials -- both law enforcement and otherwise -- to develop strategies to prevent youth from turning to violent crime while assuring that the few that do are prosecuted appropriately. Components of the Department of Justice are supporting programs to address youth violence, and many of these programs are being implemented in consultation with your offices.

Given the significant diversity among jurisdictions, each district is best equipped to determine the most effective strategies for its community. However, as a common element, your plans should reflect a commitment by federal prosecutors to increased community involvement, as well as enhanced participation by crime victims. The Action Plan and other resources at the Department of Justice can assist you in this regard. Among the ideas you should consider:

  • meeting with different organizations within the community (e.g., business groups, non-profits, local media) to encourage them to get involved in the fight against youth violence, and to show them how they can impact the problem, improve the juvenile justice system, and break the cycle of violence;
  • working with local juvenile justice agencies and federal probation officers to identify or develop effective juvenile programs designed to stop the cycle of violence;
  • expanding the role of Law Enforcement and Victim Witness Coordinators to include community outreach, the emphasis of crime victims' rights and new enforcement initiatives;
  • involving crime victims in forums with citizens and students discussing the effects of crime and the importance of crime prevention;
  • including community groups and social service providers in violent crime task force meetings to improve the gathering of information related to violent crime investigations; and
  • participating in broad-based community action groups directed at violent crime or juvenile issues.


As each of you implement a strategy responsive to the particular problems of your district, you should not hesitate to call upon the expertise of the various components of the Department of Justice. Further, as you identify successful strategies to fight youth violence, we would encourage you to contact Kent Markus so that we may disseminate this information to federal, state, local officials and others involved in this initiative. Kent Markus can be reached at (202) 514-3008.

Many of you have already begun working with your state and local counterparts to address the problem of violent juvenile crime and we applaud your efforts. With your participation in a national strategy to reduce youth violence, we can take a major step in the direction of making communities safer for our children. As the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative has so clearly demonstrated, a well-coordinated strategy among federal, state and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors is critical to an effective utilization of our scarce resources.

[cited in JM 9-63.1200]