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Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks at Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Media Briefing


Washington, DC
United States

Good morning. Thank you, Eddie, for that introduction, and thank you, all, for joining us. It’s my great pleasure to welcome everyone to this press briefing on behalf of the United States Department of Justice.

I want to start by recognizing my colleagues Amy Solomon, the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and Eddie Bocanegra, Senior Advisor for Community Violence Intervention at OJP.

I’m also very pleased to welcome four extraordinary leaders, who are our partners in community violence intervention:

  • Aqeela Sherrills from the Community Based Public Safety Collective;
  • Myesha Watkins from the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance;
  • Retired Chief Ernie Cato from the Chicago Police Department; and
  • Chief Robert Pistone from the Haverhill, Massachusetts, Police Department.

We’ve invited you to spend some time with us this morning to hear about the innovative work being done through the Justice Department’s Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative. Today you’ll hear from leaders and experts about what community violence intervention is, why we at DOJ believe it’s so important to reducing gun and community violence, and what, specifically, we’re doing to support these measures that show such promise.

I’ll begin by laying out the Justice Department’s and the Administration’s vision for tackling the epidemic of gun violence in America. Then I'll turn it over to Assistant Attorney General Solomon, who’ll dive into some of the details about her component’s important work.

Next, Eddie will talk about his role in guiding community violence intervention. Then we’ll turn to our experts to hear about how they’ve deployed these approaches in their communities and the principles that guide their work.

I’d like to set the stage by articulating what it is we’re trying to achieve. Soon after Attorney General Merrick Garland was sworn in, the Department released a new comprehensive strategy for reducing violence, aimed at combating surges in crime that occurred during the pandemic. Community violence intervention is a key pillar of our Department-wide approach, and is a critical complement to law enforcement activities. Over the past four years, we have marshalled resources from across the Justice Department, working in close collaboration with our partners at the state, local, and Tribal levels to protect the safety of our communities.

In that time, we have seen an encouraging reversal in crime trends. Cities around the country are experiencing meaningful declines in violent crime, including an over 13% drop in homicides nationally from 2022 to 2023.

Although we are making progress, there is still so much more to be done. Gun violence continues to claim thousands of lives every year. More than 48,000 people died of gunshot wounds in 2022, and almost 20,000 of them by homicide. For these victims, and for their families and loved ones, a 13% drop is just not enough.

A particularly troubling and tragic trend involves young people. Firearms are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. This is appalling, and it’s unacceptable. Our kids deserve better and we can do better.

Gun violence remains an intractable problem, but it is not an unsolvable one. Innovative strategies and effective approaches are yielding positive results in communities across the country. At the core of these strategies are partnerships that are built on trust and a shared vision for community public safety. These efforts are community-led, focusing on the highest risk individuals to provide safe and healthy alternatives to violence. They often include conflict mediation, workforce development, cognitive behavior interventions, street engagement, hospital-based support, and family engagement, to name just a few strategies.

These approaches are effective because they engage deeply with the small group of people who are most likely to participate in or be victimized by violence. And they look across the community spectrum, leveraging community partnerships to address trauma and build bridges of opportunity to a safer and healthier life.

The Department of Justice is investing substantial resources in community violence intervention. In the last two years, our Office of Justice Programs has awarded nearly $200 million in CVI funding. These resources come courtesy of a combination of annual appropriations and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which dedicated $250 million to community violence intervention over five years.

We’re infusing these resources into the communities that are most heavily impacted by gun violence and making sure that local leaders have the tools they need to save and change lives. We’re excited about what lies ahead for this work, and we’re proud to partner with communities nationwide in our shared pursuit of safety and justice for all.

I will now turn it over to my colleague, Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon, who will briefly share a few of the details about the Office of Justice Programs’ investments and how we’re looking to leaders in the field to guide this important work.

Thank you.

Updated March 28, 2024