The Department of Justice today kicked off a two-day national summit on reducing violence and strengthening communities. The summit convenes more than 500 prosecutors, federal and local law enforcement officials, and community partners working under the auspices of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) and the National Public Safety Partnership, two department-led initiatives that balance enforcement efforts with community engagement.
“The Justice Department’s strategy to disrupt violent crime is based on partnership: partnership among federal law enforcement agencies assisting in the fight against violent crime; partnership with the local communities facing the harm that violent crime causes them; and partnership with the state, local, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies protecting those local communities every day,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Over the next two days, this summit will bring together our indispensable community and law enforcement partners from across the country to share best practices on disrupting violent crime and strengthen our coordinated efforts to keep our communities and our country safe.”
The Department of Justice is hosting the virtual summit amid increased gun violence affecting communities across the country. A report issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rate of firearm murders rose 35% from 2019 to 2020. Counties with the highest poverty levels had four-and-a-half times the firearm homicide rate as counties with the lowest poverty levels.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a nationwide initiative coordinated by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices that brings together federal, state, local, and Tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, community leaders and other stakeholders to identify and address the most pressing violent crime problems in communities. Its fundamental goal is to reduce violent crime, not simply to increase the number of arrests or prosecutions. In May 2021, the Department launched a Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime that articulates four core principles of PSN: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results of our efforts.
U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country have enhanced their violent crime reduction efforts to ensure alignment with the Department’s strategy. They are collaborating with law enforcement agencies and community organizations to pinpoint the drivers of violence in their districts and working together to develop community-based, data-driven solutions. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the Department’s Office of Justice Programs, is making almost $18 million in PSN funding available to communities this year.
The Justice Department also announced its intention to select five additional jurisdictions to participate in the National Public Safety Partnership (PSP). PSP provides training, technical assistance and other resources from the department’s enforcement and grantmaking components to address community violent crime challenges. More than 50 cities have participated in the effort.
President Biden outlined his Administration’s approach to tackling violent crime during a February trip to New York City, where he discussed measures for holding accountable those who commit gun crimes and announced major investments in violence reduction efforts, community violence intervention programs, and services designed to help formerly incarcerated individuals make a successful return to their communities. “We have an opportunity to come together and fulfill the first responsibility of government and our democracy: to keep each other safe,” he said.
Joining the Attorney General during the summit are Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon, Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys Monty Wilkinson and Bureau of Justice Assistance Director Karhlton F. Moore. The summit is organized by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.