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Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West Speaks
at the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention Boston Site Visit


Boston, MA
United States

I want to begin by bringing greetings from Attorney General Eric Holder. He asked that I convey his appreciation to all of you for all the work you’re doing to prevent and reduce violence here in the city of Boston.

Let me also take a moment to reiterate what so many have said but what cannot be said enough: Our thoughts, our prayers and our hearts are with the families of victims and the survivors of the Aurora, Colorado shooting, as well as with the community that has embraced them.

When we think about Aurora, and we think about how violence can tear at the seams of our social fabric, and we think about the importance of community in repairing those tears, we are reminded of the importance of youth violence prevention programs like those we're highlighting in Boston today.

So I'm pleased to be with you today; pleased to be back in Boston – where I spent some of the most important years of my life -- and to spend time with a remarkable group of young people here at the Holland Community Center.

I want to tell why I think our gathering together today is significant, but first let me introduce my federal colleagues who are here with me today.

From the Department of Health and Human Services, Michelle Bechard and Jean Bennett, and Marci Hertz from the CDC. From the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Miniard Culpepper. From the Corporation for National and Community Service, Sherry McClintock. And from the Department of Justice, Bea Hanson, who is the director of our Office on Violence Against Women; Jeff Slowikowski from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency; and Eugene Schneeberg from the Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

And all of us are here because we're deeply committed to tackling the challenge of preventing youth and gang violence in our communities.

We're here because, according to the CDC, homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people -- the first if you're an African-American or Latino youth -- and because before this day is out, 14 more kids will lose their lives to violence.

We're here because a majority of kids – over 60 percent -- regardless of race – are exposed to some form of violence, crime, or abuse, ranging from brief encounters as witnesses to serious violent episodes to being direct victims themselves.

And we're here because Boston is part of the solution.

Attorney General Holder often says that fighting violence in our cities and building a fair and effective justice system – a system that keeps citizens safe and maintains its legitimacy in the eyes of everyone it serves – has never been more difficult, nor more urgent, than right now.

And here in Boston, folks are tackling that challenge. As a participating city in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, Boston is a leader in a unique partnership that brings communities together with federal, state and local agencies to share information, leverages resources to build local capacity and employs multidisciplinary strategies -- all to prevent and reduce youth violence.

And by emphasizing partnerships, evidence-based and data-driven strategies, and a balanced approach, we know we can empower communities to curb violence and promote the health, safety and development of our young people.

The six cities that are part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, including Boston, have worked hard over the last 20 months to develop and implement concrete plans and strategies that will coordinate their youth violence prevention activities. And I am excited that over the next two days, my colleagues and I will be able to hear and see much of the great progress that the Boston team has made.

But the work going on in Boston and the other five cities is only the beginning. Our goal is to expand this conversation across the nation. Within the weeks to come we will be announcing four additional cities to participate in the National Forum, bringing the total number to ten.

And I know that Boston will have much to teach those new National Forum cities. The hallmark of Boston's youth violence prevention efforts has been an anti-violence strategy that reaches across different disciplines and is made manifest by a solid collaboration on the ground, where it matters most. Collaborations that include the City's Safe Street Teams, Circle of Promise, Youth Options Unlimited and the Boston Reentry Initiative.

I'm proud that we at the federal level are working with you, as well. At the Justice Department, we count Boston as one of our key partners in the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which seeks to prevent children's exposure to violence by raising awareness and increasing knowledge and promoting early intervention. And it was here that our Office on Violence Against Women established one of its first Engaging Men and Boys Grant Programs, emphasizing the importance of enlisting male voices to speak out and stand tall against violence aimed at women and girls.

So I'm glad to be with you in Boston this morning. As a former federal prosecutor and now the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice, I know the impact violence can have on our communities, our families and our children. I know the importance of holding perpetrators of violent acts accountable to full extent of the law.

But I also know that we will not arrest, or prosecute, or detain our way out of youth violence. It will take more. It will take you. It will take all of us -- all of us making an investment in the youth of Boston; all of us making an investment in the youth of our country.

Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014