Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Eddie [Bocanegra]. I am so pleased to open this webinar series, and I am so moved by the commitment, from so many people across the country, to the health and safety of our communities.
Today’s session is the first of five webinars focused on expanding community violence intervention and prevention strategies. These strategies are grounded in research and designed and led by experienced practitioners, and they offer tremendous promise in our efforts to reduce violence and build a stronger and safer America.
For too long, we have leaned too heavily on policing as the only solution, and we’ve often downplayed the wealth of resources available through community-based service providers, faith-based organizations and those with lived experience who are an invaluable source of wisdom. This imbalance has too often fed into a cycle of trauma and victimization.
We know there’s a better way, one that builds on what we have learned about violence and its causes. Research shows that community violence – gun violence in particular – can often be traced back to factors like fear, mistrust and a lack of social and economic opportunity. It also shows that multifaceted, data-driven approaches can be effective in curbing violence – and you will hear about some of these approaches during this webinar series. If we hope to achieve sustainable reductions in violence, we must embrace our community assets as a central ingredient in violence reduction strategies.
And we’ve got a huge opportunity in this moment.
As all of you know – and in fact, thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of many of you – President Biden has called for an unprecedented investment in community violence intervention strategies that will build up – and help scale – community infrastructure as a complement to law enforcement.
In June, the President signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provides $250 million over five years – $50 million a year – to support community violence intervention and prevention programs. This builds on a $50 million appropriation for fiscal year 2022, meaning the Office of Justice Programs will soon announce investments of nearly $100 million in communities across the country. These resources will help develop and expand the community infrastructure needed to build community safety and strengthen our neighborhoods. These investments will support cross-agency collaborations that consider the challenges – and the solutions – not simply from the perspective of adults or youth, or from the standpoint of victims versus defendants, but holistically, from the wider lens of the community.
We’ll seed new efforts and fund expansion plans in both community-based organizations and in efforts led by mayors’ offices and other local government agencies. Resources will also support intermediaries that will provide direct funding and technical assistance to help smaller organizations grow their work and build their capacity. And we’ll make technical assistance opportunities available to any jurisdiction, regardless of whether or not they receive federal funding.
Finally, and critically, we’ll be investing in research and evaluation so that we, as a field, can learn as we go and develop stronger, deeper insights into what works to curb violence and save lives.
We know that even more is needed given the demands on the ground. And President Biden’s Safer America Plan in fact proposes $5 billion over 10 years to support CVI programs. But let me say this: Our number one goal at the Office of Justice Programs is to support communities, so that they are strong and vibrant, where everyone has the chance to grow and thrive. We want to strengthen community partnerships, expand opportunities for our youth, address the trauma that many people involved in violence have faced and use data and science to guide us to effective, sustainable public safety solutions.
When I joined the President and Justice Department leaders at the White House in July to celebrate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, I saw what I’m seeing today – hundreds of concerned and committed people, from all walks of life and from every corner of our country, many of them survivors, many driven by their own profound experience of pain and loss. I was awed and inspired by their resilience and by their tenacious hope in the wake of tragedy.
After hearing their stories, and so many others, I could only nod in agreement at how our President captured the work we are all doing. He said, “What we are doing here today is real, it’s vivid, it’s relevant. The action we take today is a step designed to make our nation the kind of nation we should be.”
What you are doing is real and relevant to your communities, and you should know that it is even more than that. The work you do is vital to fulfilling the promise of a better, a safer and a more just nation.
I am grateful for your contributions, and I look forward to the progress we will make, together.