Hello, everyone, and thank you for being here. I want to thank Senator [Chris] Coons for his warm introduction and for his hospitality in welcoming me to his state. Senator Coons is an outstanding leader in Washington and he has been a great partner to the Department of Justice. I also want to thank U.S. Attorney [Charles] Oberly for his tremendous service to the people of Delaware.
I am here in Wilmington today to discuss how the justice system affects the youngest members of our communities. All of our young people deserve to lead lives of safety, dignity, and opportunity – and a crucial part of our work is to figure out how law enforcement and community stakeholders can come together to achieve that goal. We just had a productive and energetic community discussion at Delaware Historical Society about the criminal and juvenile justice system here in Delaware, and about the ways that the Department of Justice is working with state and local agencies to provide more diversion programs, mentoring opportunities and other crucial services to justice-involved youth. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to hear directly from community members on this vital issue and I am confident that with the continued partnership and leadership of officials like Senator Coons and Mayor-Elect [Mike] Purzycki, Delaware will continue making progress toward a brighter future for all of its young people.
Later today, I am looking forward to visiting the Wilmington Police Department, where I will have a chance to attend a roll call and to thank the officers and commanders there for their excellent work as part of the department’s Violence Reduction Network, or VRN. This groundbreaking initiative helps member cities like Wilmington develop a comprehensive approach to their particular violent crime challenges.
Wilmington was one of the first cities to take part in this program. this was, in part, a lottery that no city wanted to win – VRN focused its initial efforts on cities with homicide rates that far exceeded the national average. Yet, Wilmington embraced VRN’s involvement and became one of our great success stories. The Wilmington Police Department stepped up its collaboration with federal partners and became an active participant in all federal law enforcement task force teams. It established a homicide unit and changed its homicide investigations processes. And it improved the assistance it provided to victims and witnesses. And as a result of this hard work, the Wilmington police department increased its homicide clearance rate by 40 percent after VRN’s involvement. We are hopeful that the encouraging progress we have seen here and elsewhere as a result of the VRN will continue long after the formal partnership comes to an end.
I am also looking forward to visiting the New Castle County Child Advocacy Center and hearing about the heroic efforts its employees are making on behalf of victims of child abuse. New Castle exemplifies the kind of vital advocacy we need to prevent abuse and to hold accountable the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Wilmington is a community where we can see the progress that is possible when federal, state and local officials work side-by-side with community leaders and advocates on the important issues of our time. I am proud of all that we have accomplished together over the last eight years, and I am hopeful that in the years to come, the Department of Justice will continue seeking innovative ways to lend its resources and expertise to communities from coast to coast, ensuring a brighter and more just future for all.
At this time, we are happy to take a few questions.