Skip to main content

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Grantee Convening


St. Louis, MO
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Thank you, Eddie, for that extraordinarily generous introduction. And thank you for your longstanding and outstanding work in the area of community and violence prevention. Can we have a round of applause just for Eddie?

And thank you, Amy, for leading by example, particularly when it comes to engaging with communities as the Justice Department’s indispensable partners and for organizing this really fantastic convening.

Thank you to the entire OJP team for organizing this first-of-its-kind convening of our partners in the community violence intervention area. I know that planning this gathering represents just a fraction of the work that you are doing every single day to protect our communities. I am really grateful to you.

I also want to express my gratitude to all of our partners who are here today. I know many of you have been engaged in community violence intervention and prevention efforts for decades.  I want to thank you for your work and thank you for being here. I also want to thank Mayor Jones and Chief Tracy for graciously hosting this convening over this last week.

The participants in this convening bring a range of perspectives from across the country and across the field. 

One of the purposes of this gathering is to exchange the knowledge, the lessons learned, and the best practices informed by those different perspectives.

But this is also an important opportunity to affirm our shared beliefs and our shared commitment. 

I believe that all of us in this room today are united in the fundamental reason why we do this work. 

It’s the same belief that unites the 115,000 employees of the Justice Department, across our grantmaking components, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and our law enforcement agencies. It’s what unites all of our state and local law enforcement partners nationwide.

And it’s why so many of you have traveled across the country to participate in this conference.

We are all here because we believe that everyone in this country deserves to feel safe in their communities. 

Every person, on every street, in every neighborhood, deserves to feel protected. 

Every parent, on every block, deserves to know that their children are safe when they play outside.

Fulfilling that promise is our urgent shared challenge.

Yesterday, you heard from Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta about the importance of building a community-centered approach to violence interruption and prevention. I am so grateful for her deep understanding of this work and her extraordinary commitment and leadership.

Today, I want to discuss how that approach fits into the Justice Department’s broader work to combat violent crime and protect the safety of our communities.

At the Justice Department, our approach to disrupting violent crime is centered on our partnerships – both with the communities harmed by violent crime and with the law enforcement agencies that protect those communities.  

Our approach is centered on building public trust. We know that we cannot do our jobs effectively without the trust of the communities we serve.  

Our Department-wide anti-violent crime strategy leverages the resources of our federal prosecutors, agents, investigators, grant programs, and criminal justice experts towards those ends.

We are working closely with local and state law enforcement agencies, with officials across government, and with the communities most affected by this violence, and with the community organizations on the front lines – all toward one goal: the goal of making our communities safer.

Every one of our 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country is working alongside state and local partners to implement district-specific violent crime reduction strategies.

Each of our law enforcement components is working with its state, local, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners to seize illegal guns and deadly drugs and to hold accountable, those who commit those acts in our communities.

Our grantmaking components are working closely with communities across the country to provide targeted support and assistance. That includes resources to give law enforcement agencies the tools and training they need to protect their communities and to serve them. It includes providing technical assistance and resources to our law enforcement partners to build the public trust that is essential to public safety.

It includes providing resources through the Department’s Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program, which funds state crisis intervention court proceedings. On Tuesday of this week, we announced the investment of over $231 million in that program. Those funds will allow communities to implement the extreme risk protection order laws and programs that we know save lives.

And it includes our work to fund evidence-informed, community-centered initiatives aimed at preventing and disrupting violence.

As you heard from Eddie, early in my tenure as Attorney General, I visited READI Chicago, a groundbreaking gun violence intervention initiative.

During my trip, I did have, as he said, the opportunity to meet case managers, job coaches, outreach workers at READI. I had the chance to hear from several of the young men they serve. 

I saw first-hand how programs like READI, that focus on building partnerships and public trust, can change lives and save lives in communities that have been hardest hit by violence.

And I saw the evaluation data that bears out that success. According to a randomized control trial conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, READI Chicago participants were 64% less likely to be arrested for shootings or homicides – compared to their peers who did not participate in those programs.

I am personally invested in this. READI is only one of three community violence intervention programs that I’ve personally visited. I visited another in New York City. And just yesterday I visited with representatives in East St. Louis. These programs work. They save lives, and we want all of you to spread this across the country. We know all of you are working on these programs right now.

Through OJP, the Justice Department is working to advance community violence intervention efforts that reach the highest-risk individuals – those who are both most likely to engage in violence and most likely to be victimized by it.  We are funding programs that interrupt patterns of violence before they occur. And we are supporting initiatives that expand opportunity in communities most burdened by that violence.

Last September, the Justice Department announced $100 million in Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative grants to nearly 50 organizations and agencies across the country. We are so grateful that so many of you are here today.

Today, I want to highlight just a few examples of how some of our new grantees – your colleagues – are going to put that funding to work.

In North Carolina, a county teen court and youth services provider will focus its efforts on disrupting violence in underserved rural communities through community engagement, gang prevention, street outreach, and victim services.

In Baltimore, a non-profit organization will employ credible messengers to engage residents near open-air drug markets and violent crime hotspots.

In Georgia, a county agency will expand its juvenile gang prevention and intervention efforts. That includes hiring a community resource specialist focused on building relationships with communities experiencing an increase in violence. And it includes partnering with a behavioral health consultant to build trauma-informed therapy groups and support services for mentors and parents.

In Puerto Rico, its first community violence intervention program will continue working to fund services including highly trained violence interrupters and street outreach workers.

In New York, a non-profit organization plans to double the size of its gun avoidance and prevention program in partnership with the District Attorney’s office.

And in Denver, an organization is building a CVI strategy that will promote collaboration between grassroots organizations and public safety and public health entities, with violence interrupters and outreach workers leading the way.

I know that these efforts are just a sample of the work being done by grantees across the country and so many by those of you in this room. I’m sorry I can’t mention every single one.

In addition to allocating resources, the Department is also providing intensive training and technical assistance, both to you in this room, and to other jurisdictions that want to learn more about CVI.

We are also encouraging grantees to collaborate with researchers to conduct rigorous evaluations of their program models. And this will help us build more effective programs that are rooted in a deeper understanding of what works in violence reduction and where this work can continue to evolve.

In the coming weeks, the Justice Department will announce an additional $100 million in competitive funding available under this initiative.

It’s nice to be able to announce funding.

Those funds will go directly to the agencies and organizations across the country who are our partners on the frontlines of protecting our communities and reducing violence.

All of us at the Justice Department recognize that the hard work of violence reduction falls primarily on our state, local, and community partners.

We also recognize that there is no one-sized-fits-all solution to reducing violent crime. We must deploy strategies that are tailored to the needs and are developed by individual communities. And we must work every day to build and maintain the public trust that is essential to public safety.

At the Justice Department, we will continue to do everything in our power and use every resource at our disposal to protect the safety of the American people.

Thank you all for your partnership in that work and for being here today. I look forward to our continued work together in the days ahead. Thank you all for coming.

Violent Crime
Updated February 16, 2023