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Justice News

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Delivers Remarks at the Dallas Police Department on Project Safe Neighborhoods Efforts
Dallas, TX
United States
~
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you, Erin for that generous introduction, for your outstanding leadership over your team of more than 100 prosecutors serving 8 million Texans.  Thank you for your decade of exemplary service to this Department.

Thank you also to Jeff Boshek of ATF, Eric Jackson of FBI, U.S. Marshal Rick Taylor, DPD Executive Assistant Chief of Police David Pughes, and Deputy Chief Avery Moore, commander of DPD’s Northeast Patrol Division.

Thank you all for being here.

It is great to be back in Texas.

Yesterday, I visited Austin. 

Later today, I’ll be visiting the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

I was honored to serve in the Bush Administration as a United States Attorney for five-and-a-half years.  It was extremely rewarding to help take illegal guns, drugs, and criminals out of the community where I grew up and where I’m raising my family.  I am deeply grateful to President Bush for nominating me and for putting so much trust in me.

I am also deeply grateful to be here with you to say thank you.

Law enforcement officers in Dallas are important to this community—and you’re important to law enforcement across the country.

It was not long ago that a political radical targeted Dallas police officers for assassination.  He killed five officers and wounded seven.

We will never forget those officers.

Sadly, this was not the only case of targeted violence against police officers in recent years.  But these attacks in Dallas were especially calculated and malicious.

They reminded us once again of the dangers that you face every single day. 

This weekend we got yet another reminder when an FBI agent in Brooklyn was shot in the shoulder in the line of duty.  He is expected to recover—but he has made a major sacrifice.

We are praying for him and his family.  We are grateful to him and to all officers like you who put your lives on the line for us.

And so it is an honor to be here with you—and especially to be with officers who are doing such impressive work.

In fact, it is award-winning work.

Last week, Erin and I were in Kansas City for the first national Project Safe Neighborhoods Conference of the Trump Administration.

As this group knows, PSN is the centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy.

Under President Bush, it was a big success.  One study showed that, in its first six years, PSN reduced violent crime overall by 4.1 percent, with case studies showing reductions in certain areas of up to 42 percent.

Under President Trump, we’re going to make it an even bigger success.

Last October, former Attorney General Sessions made PSN our top crime-fighting priority once again.  He deserves a lot of credit for that. 

PSN works because it empowers our people out in the field.  Rather than having Washington, D.C. dictate a top-down, uniform approach, PSN directs Erin and our other U.S. Attorneys to work with their communities to develop a customized crime reduction plan to target the most violent criminals in the most violent areas.

I ran this program for five years as a U.S. Attorney in Southern Iowa, and I know firsthand that it works. 

I’ve prosecuted PSN cases personally—and I know a good PSN program when I see one.  Last week I was pleased to award Erin and the Northern District of Texas with one of our two Outstanding Overall Partnership awards.

Dallas’s PSN Task Force is named for Officer Rogelio Santander of the Dallas Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty this past April.

The Task Force has been honoring his memory by continuing his work of putting away criminals and reducing crime in Dallas.

I want to congratulate P.J. Meitl, who serves as PSN coordinator here in Northern Texas.

P.J. is coming up on six years with the Department and he has already prosecuted more than 500 defendants and participated in more than 15 jury trials, including the largest criminal prosecution of a single physician for healthcare fraud in Department history. He has also helped prosecute 85 alleged white supremacists.  This is outstanding work. Let’s hear it for P.J.

Last week’s award shows that law enforcement in Dallas is setting an example of collaboration that other districts can follow.

Your PSN Task Force brings together more than 60 people, including law enforcement officers, local government officials, school personnel, and 15 different community organizations.

It’s a big group.  And this group has hit the ground running.

Over the last eight months, you’ve held more than 60 community meetings and events.  You’re building trust and encouraging crime victims and witnesses to come forward and help us find the criminals.

At one event—the Community Unity Festival—you had more than 1,000 guests.  Even for Texas, that’s a lot of people.

These community engagement efforts have been led by Sgt. Leroy Quigg.  Great job, Sgt. Quigg.

The Task Force has also been meeting with former prisoners once a month and helping them make the transition back to civilian life.  I’m told that you’re meeting with more than 300 former offenders monthly.  In total, more than 2,400 have attended these “re-entry nights,” where you offer job placement, counseling, and some straight talk about the consequences of reoffending.

All of this hard work is leading to tangible results.  In just eight months, Dallas’s PSN Task Force has led to more than 120 arrests of alleged violent criminals.

I’m told that Dallas Detective Calvin Scudder is leading the team in arrests.  Great work, Detective.

PSN helped us indict two gang members who allegedly got into a shootout in front of a dollar store.  One is a felon and one was under indictment when it happened—and it was caught on surveillance video.

PSN helped us indict two women for allegedly making a straw purchase of a Glock pistol.  That gun was later used to kill the witness to a robbery.  P.J. is prosecuting this case.

PSN helped us indict an alleged carjacker as a felon in possession of a firearm.  In total, he is now facing up to 45 years in prison.

And PSN helped shut down a convenience store that was a magnet for illegal activity.

These are important cases—but PSN is not about filling up the courts or the jails.  Our goal is to reduce violent crime.

Thanks in large part to people in this room, we are achieving that goal.  Violent crime is down in our target areas in Dallas by about 20 percent since the PSN Task Force got started.

Those are exactly the results that we want to see.

That is why the Department of Justice is proud to invest in you.

We have pledged to invest more than $700,000 in Dallas’ PSN Task Force.

Your work is not just important to Dallas.  It is important to the entire Department of Justice. 

You’re helping us achieve our goals as a Department nationwide.

In fiscal year 2017, the Department of Justice prosecuted more violent criminals than in any year on record to that point. 

And then, in fiscal year 2018—after Attorney General Sessions announced that PSN was a priority again—we broke that record by a margin of 15 percent.

In fiscal year 2018, we charged the highest number of federal firearm defendants in Department history.  We broke the previous record by a margin of 17 percent.  We charged 30 percent more firearm defendants than we charged in 2016.

At the same time, we have also broken records for prosecuting illegal entry by illegal aliens, increased the number of white collar defendants, the number of drug defendants, and increased the number of illegal aliens prosecuted for felony re-entry by 38 percent.

Violent crime and homicide were up in 2015 and 2016—but they were down in 2017.  And for 2018, they will probably be down even lower.  One estimate projects that the murder rate in our 29 biggest cities will decline by 7.6 percent this year.  That means fewer victims, fewer grieving families, and more peace of mind for the people we serve.

Drug overdose deaths were up in 2015 and 2016—but they were down in the last six months we have data.  And opioid prescriptions are down nearly 20 percent since 2016.

These are important achievements that affect people’s lives.  And the people in this room are helping us achieve them.

Simply put, we could not have done it without our state and local partners.

And so I want to conclude with something a mentor of mine used to say every time he spoke to law enforcement, and I believe it too: we have your back, and you have our thanks.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated December 12, 2018