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Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Criminal Division Delivers Statement Before U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations on Gangs


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery


Chairman Sensenbrenner, Vice Chairman Gohmert, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee, it is a pleasure to appear before the Subcommittee today to discuss the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat gang violence.


Violent crime is on the rise in many parts of America. Gang violence increasingly headlines news cycles given its frequency and effect on neighborhoods and innocent people who get caught in the crossfire. There are approximately 1.4 million members of 33,000 gangs operating across the country – all of whom use violence to boost their illegal money-making activities, protect their territories, intimidate their rivals, enhance their status, and fulfill their missions.


Too many of our citizens live in fear of these violent criminals. All Americans deserve to be free from violence and safe in their homes, schools, jobs, and neighborhoods. That is why it is a top priority of the Department of Justice – under the leadership of Attorney General Sessions – to reduce violent crime in America, including gang-related violence.


Reducing violent crime requires that we balance strong law enforcement with effective prevention measures. We must take violent offenders off our streets and thwart gangs’ efforts to recruit vulnerable youth.


To achieve the first of these twin aims, the Department relies on the expertise of its federal prosecutors – including the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices – as well as its law enforcement agencies, like the ATF, the FBI, the DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service; other federal law enforcement partners, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Federal prosecutors and their law enforcement partners lead investigations and prosecutions of criminal gangs of regional, national, and international significance, such as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, the Gangster Disciples, and MS-13, just to name a few.


Prosecutors and investigators have prioritized violent crime, and are working to identify the most violent offenders in their districts and ensure those individuals are prosecuted fully and sentenced appropriately – including under applicable federal statutes that carry significant federal penalties. any gangs distribute dangerous and illegal drugs to generate income to support their criminal activities, and with drug distribution comes violence. Thus, when appropriate, federal prosecutors also seek to charge gang members – and the foreign kingpins who supply them – with drug offenses.


None of these investigations and prosecutions, however, would be possible without the daily sacrifice of the dedicated law enforcement officers who investigate these violent criminals. Specialized task forces comprised of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers, such as the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Forces, HSI Operation Community Shield and those funded by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force program, are hard at work in the areas with the highest concentration of gun and gang violence.


Law enforcement efforts to arrest and incarcerate violent gang members have a significant impact on the quality of life in our communities. But enforcement alone will not end gang membership and gang violence. We must also support gang intervention and prevention programs.


Many such successful programs are funded by the Department’s grant-making components, including the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). For example, OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Bureau of Justice Assistance jointly fund the National Gang Center, which provides comprehensive resources, training, and strategic tools to those in the fields of law enforcement and criminal justice, as well as to community organizations, to prevent gang violence, reduce gang involvement and suppress gang-related crime.


These are just a few examples of the Department’s continued commitment to supporting our federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners in ending the scourge of gang violence in our communities.


Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

Updated July 20, 2017