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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks Announcing the Opening of the New Northeast Ohio Crime Gun Intelligence Center in Cleveland


Cleveland , OH
United States

Good morning. I am pleased to be here to announce the opening of the Northeast Ohio Crime Gun Intelligence Center, or CGIC.

CGICs like this one are law enforcement hubs that focus exclusively on investigating and preventing gun violence. They bring law enforcement officers and prosecutors together, at local, state, and federal levels all together in one place. There, they provide them with access to cutting-edge ballistic analysis and firearms tracing technology.

Through enhanced collaboration and advanced technology, CGICs help investigators generate leads to get shooters off the streets and dismantle the trafficking networks that supply violent criminals with their guns.

To mark today’s opening, I am joined by the ATF Director, Mr. Dettelbach, and the U.S. Attorney Ms. Lutzko, and more than 20 law enforcement leaders. They represent just some of the dozens of agencies that will benefit from this CGIC.

Standing together today, this group also represents the collaborative approach that the Justice Department has taken to combating violent crime over the past three and a half years.

When I became Attorney General, I knew that grappling with the violent crime that surged early in the pandemic would be one of the greatest challenges faced by the Justice Department.

I also knew that among the most powerful tools the Department has to confront violent crime would be our partnerships:

  • Our partnerships among federal law enforcement agencies assisting in the fight against violent crime;

  • Our partnerships with the state and local law enforcement agencies that protect their local communities every single day; and

  • Our partnerships with the community groups, intervention workers, and local leaders who work alongside us to help prevent and reduce gun violence.

So, we have spent the last three years pouring every available resource into strengthening those partnerships, including through CGICs like this one.

But just today, there is a proposal to drastically cut the Justice Department’s budget by almost $1 billion, including U.S. attorneys and the ATF, which help keep communities like Cleveland safe. This effort to defund the Justice Department and its essential law enforcement functions will make our fight against violent crime all the more difficult. It is unacceptable.

Today also marks the two-year anniversary of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, or BSCA. In those two years, we have charged 525 defendants under the Act’s straw purchasing and firearms trafficking provisions and stopped 800 firearm purchases by young people who are legally prohibited from obtaining guns.

We have made wide-reaching efforts to combat the scourge of violent crime. And we are seeing results.

Data released by the FBI earlier this month showed that in the first three months of this year, violent crime decreased by more than 15 percent compared to the same period last year. And murder decreased by more than 26 percent.

Here in Cleveland, homicides committed with a firearm are down more than 33 percent year-to-date.

And this builds on the historic decline in violent crime we saw on the national level last year, including the largest one-year drop in homicides in 50 years.

Those declines are more than just statistics — they represent people who are still here, who get to share their lives with their families, and who get to contribute to their communities.

But we know our work is far from done.

Earlier this month, a block party in Akron became the target of a drive-by mass shooting. Twenty-eight people were injured, and a 27-year-old man was killed.

And last month in Euclid, Officer Jacob Derbin was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty responding to a call. Officer Derbin was a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard. He was just 23 years old.

We remember Officer Derbin today, and all of the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our communities safe. Our country owes them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay.

The Justice Department is committed to doing everything in our power to combat the gun violence that endangers our communities.

And we are committed to doing everything in our power to support the law enforcement officers who risk their lives for our communities every single day.

No one in this country should have to live in fear of gun violence. No family and no community should have to grieve the loss of their loved ones to senseless violence.

That is why we are here today.

The Northeast Ohio Crime Gun Intelligence Center will help us leverage our partnerships and technological innovation to solve gun crimes and save lives.

All of us on this stage know that when it comes to investigating gun crimes, every day matters. Every day, another lead can run dry. Every day, a repeat shooter may shatter another family and another community.

With this CGIC, it does not matter if a crime is committed in a city, a suburb, or a rural area. The law enforcement investigators who investigate will have cutting-edge technology at their fingertips and a lineup of experts ready to assist.

And if a single firearm is used to commit crimes in multiple jurisdictions across Northeast Ohio, this centralized CGIC will enhance investigators’ ability to detect patterns.

Across the country, we have seen how CGICs can support law enforcement investigations.

A few months ago, Chicago Police Officer Luis Huesca was shot and killed on his way home from work. It was a tragedy for his family, for his colleagues, and for the city. Because of the new CGIC, investigators were able to promptly process ballistics and firearms evidence from the scene. They identified and arrested a subject within weeks.

In March of this year, the Detroit Police Department recovered a firearm with an affixed Machine Gun Conversion Device. Working with the Detroit CGIC, law enforcements were able to connect the use of that firearm to both a drive-by shooting and a gang-related homicide.

We opened a CGIC in Columbus a little under a year ago. Before the CGIC opened, it took between 40 to 60 days for a shell casing found at a crime scene in Columbus to get added to ATF’s NIBIN database. Since the CGIC opened, we have cut that time to two days.

Whether in Chicago, Detroit, or Columbus — or here in Cleveland: CGICs help law enforcement keep our communities safe.

CGICs are a great tool. But they are not our only tool. As we invest in expanding these Centers across the country, the Justice Department is also working in joint task forces with our state and local partners to zero in on the individuals and gangs that have repeatedly committed violent offenses.

And building on the power of collaboration, today we published an Interim Final Rule that will allow firearms dealers and others to check the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database so they can see if guns being sold to them were stolen.

We are also putting our grantmaking powers to work to hire more police officers, strengthen community policing efforts, and invest in evidence-based community violence intervention programs with a track record of success.

And we are continuing to take steps to build the public trust that is essential to public safety.

I am grateful to all of our enforcement and community partners throughout Northeast Ohio who have helped advance efforts to keep this community safe.

Our work is far from over. Progress is only progress. And without our vigilance, it can easily slip away.

This CGIC does not represent the culmination of the Justice Department’s efforts to stop gun crimes in this region — it marks a new chapter.  

Before I close, I want to acknowledge that we are here today in Cleveland on what should have been Tamir Rice’s 22nd birthday. Tamir’s death was a tragedy that devastated his family and so many in this community. I am thinking of Tamir’s loved ones who miss him every day, and for whom today is a particularly painful day.

I want to thank everyone here today who has helped make this CGIC possible. I know that none of us will stop working until all Americans — in Northeast Ohio and across the country — feel safe in their communities.

Now I’m going to turn the podium over the Director of the ATF Steve Dettelbach.

Updated June 25, 2024