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Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks at the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Grantee Conference


Chicago, IL
United States

Thank you, Eddie, I don’t know what to make of the fact that I didn’t get a Wu-Tang comparison, but I appreciate your leadership and your work in the Department and I want to thank also the Attorney General for his words of support and for his leadership of our communities.

It’s a tremendous pleasure to be back in Chicago, and to join the Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General Amy Solomon, and all our Justice Department colleagues as we kick off this second national community violence intervention conference.

I want to thank Amy and her team for all their hard work in organizing this event. And more broadly, to say thanks for helping to lead the Justice Department’s community safety efforts, especially for lifting up the vital work that community violence intervention professionals are doing across the country.

We come here today as your partners in public safety. But we also come as humble listeners, eager to learn the lessons that you have absorbed from your years of experience.

The Department of Justice deeply values your work, and we are eager to build on the collaboration that we began when we launched the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative two years ago.

We are at a watershed moment in community safety. The reduction in violent crime that the Attorney General just told us about is indeed encouraging news, and we hope that it brings a sense of the possibilities that are ahead.

But there are so many serious and immediate challenges still confronting us. The Attorney General spoke for many of us here when he observed recently in a statement that “hard fought progress can easily slip away, and we must remain focused and vigilant.”

The fact is that gun violence continues to claim thousands of lives every year. More than 48,000 people died of gunshot wounds in 2022, almost 20,000 of them by homicide. For these victims, and for their families and loved ones, a national trend, no matter how positive, is little consolation.

Especially troubling is the impact of gun violence on our kids. Firearms are now the leading cause of death among American children and teens. Promising young lives are being cut short by senseless, often impulsive acts of violence. Our children deserve better, and we know that we can do better. Many of you have shown us what is possible, and we are committed to joining you in this fight.

As the Attorney General pointed out, the Department is making unprecedented federal investments in community violence intervention – and I’m encouraged to see philanthropies and private funders embrace these strategies too. These approaches deserve and need support from every sector, because we still have a long way to go to ensure that they are fully integrated into our community safety infrastructure – and that really is our goal.

Our commitment to you does not stop with the grant money that we’ve been talking about and the Attorney General annouced. It extends across the Justice Department, in our work to protect civil rights, support local law enforcement, reduce gender-based violence, ensure safety in Tribal communities, and broker those difficult conversations that can lead to greater mutual trust.

We know that community safety and community trust are inextricably linked. The challenge of gun violence demands a collective solution, one that brings together community leaders and justice system actors around a shared vision of safer communities. Yet when the bonds of trust are frayed, these partnerships cannot flourish.

Across the Department, we’re committed to fostering the relationships that are so important to the safety of our communities.

Through our Civil Rights Division, we are conducting investigations to bring to light patterns of unconstitutional policing practices – and where we find them, we’re enforcing meaningful accountability for change. Community voices are a core component of these efforts, helping us identify systemic misconduct and shape solutions that lay the groundwork for renewed trust and safety.

Through our Community Relations Service, we’re fulfilling our role as “America’s Peacekeeper.” We are facilitating constructive dialogues between law enforcement and community residents in the wake of conflict, helping to alleviate tensions, forge solutions, and build common ground between officers and the people who they serve.

Through our COPS Office, we’re delivering hands-on support to help law enforcement partners tackle the systemic issues that challenge community trust and confidence. And we are encouraging agencies to engage with community-based violence intervention providers as allies in the pursuit of equal justice and safety for all.

Through our Office on Violence Against Women, we’re breaking down siloes and building connections between the committed leaders working to end community violence and domestic violence.

And across our grantmaking components, we are supporting a wide range of public safety activities in American Indian and Alaska Native communities – from youth healing-to-wellness courts to innovative victim assistance programs in hundreds of locations across Indian country.

In short, we are grounding our violence reduction strategy in programs and activities that place communities and collaboration squarely at their center. That, we believe, is the way forward to make our nation safer and more just.

We are committed to ensuring that communities are able not merely to survive, but to truly thrive. This is the example that many of you have set. You have shown that there is a path out of violence that leads to the fulfillment of personal potential, that paves the way to stronger communities, and even more, that can help us lay claim to a safer, and more just, America.

We are awed by your commitment and your courage. We are grateful for your tireless efforts. And we are proud to be your partners in this extraordinary and essential work.

This Department of Justice stands by you, and we look forward to the great things that we will accomplish together. Thank you very much.

Violent Crime
Updated April 3, 2024