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Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Surge of Resources to Fight Violent Crime in Three Additional Cities

Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced that the Justice Department is adding three new cities to its Criminal Division’s Violent Crime Initiative (VCI), building on the successful model launched in Houston, Texas, in September 2022, and expanded to Memphis, Tennessee, in November 2023. The VCI surges law enforcement tools and resources to target gangs and other violent groups that are threatening the safety and security of communities in cities across the nation.

As the Attorney General noted in his remarks this morning in Chicago, today’s announcement comes as the Justice Department is working to replicate the successes that communities across the country have seen in driving down the violent crime that spiked during the pandemic. That includes cities like Detroit, where 2023 marked the fewest homicides in 57 years; Baltimore, where there was a 20% reduction in homicides in 2023 and a 7% reduction in non-fatal shootings; New Orleans, where 2023 marked a 25% decline in homicides; Philadelphia, where there was a 20% reduction in homicides in 2023; and Chicago, where homicides decreased by 13% in 2023.

“The Justice Department will not rest until every person, in every neighborhood, in every community is safe from violent crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The FBI reports that last year we saw a significant decrease in overall violent crime across the country compared to the previous year—including an over 13% decline in homicides. That is the largest one-year decline in homicides in 50 years. The Justice Department is not easing up on our efforts to reduce violent crime. In fact, today, we are doubling down. In Houston and Memphis, we launched a Violent Crime Initiative that brought prosecutors from the Department’s Criminal Division to work closely with prosecutors already on the ground to target those responsible for the greatest violence. Today, we are launching the next phase of our Violent Crime Initiative in St. Louis, Missouri; Jackson, Mississippi; and Hartford, Connecticut.”

“No matter where violent crime occurs, it leaves a devastating impact on victims and communities,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI, as part of the Violent Crime Initiative, is renewing our focus on violent crime in three additional cities and surging tools and resources to make our streets safer. Every day, our field offices work to tear down violent criminals and gangs and this initiative will only serve to magnify their successes.”

“Violent crime demands our urgent attention,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Through our Violent Crime Initiative, the Criminal Division works in partnership with local U.S. Attorneys and federal and state law enforcement to use data to focus on the worst of the worst violent offenders, to engage with the communities in which we work, and to make our neighborhoods safer. As our work in Houston and Memphis has shown, together we can make a difference.”

To focus the Justice Department’s resources on communities most in need, the Criminal Division has identified St. Louis, Missouri; Jackson, Mississippi; and Hartford, Connecticut, as the next VCI cities. The VCI utilizes prosecutors from the Criminal Division’s Violent Crime and Racketeering Section—the nation’s foremost experts in racketeering prosecutions—to work alongside prosecutors from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, as well as dedicated investigative agents, analysts, and forensic experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Through the VCI, the Criminal Division also works with community leaders in each city to best understand citizens’ concerns and to work to support them. Since the start of Houston VCI, Houston saw reductions of 9% in violent crime and 20% in homicides. In Memphis, when compared to 2023, official counts of murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults have decreased since the VCI has been operational.

“We have long had a focus in the Eastern District of Missouri on violent crime and complex criminal conspiracies, and the addition of two experienced prosecutors will allow us to expand that,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri. “We look forward to working with them to make the St. Louis region safer.”

“As a resident of Jackson, I know it is a great place to live and work, but it also suffers from violent crime that is largely driven by a small number of violent individuals and gangs,” said U.S. Attorney Todd Gee for the Southern District of Mississippi. “I am excited to have experts from the Justice Department join with federal, state, and local law enforcement here in Jackson to help us investigate and prosecute these sources of violent crime.”

“This office and our federal law enforcement partners have a long and successful history of working with the Hartford Police Department and our state counterparts to make our capital city safer,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery for the District of Connecticut. “We welcome these additional Justice Department resources, which supplement our efforts to focus on the groups and individuals in Hartford that are chiefly responsible for Hartford’s gun violence and prosecute offenders to the full extent of federal law.”

“With crime rates down in so many places in 2023, now is not the time to back off. Now is the time to double and triple down on strategies that have been shown to work,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “ATF’s expertise in Crime Gun Intelligence allows our agents—and our law enforcement partners—to follow the crime gun. This leads to more impactful arrests both of those who are actually doing the shooting and those unlawfully supplying the shooters with their guns. By combining this intelligence and data with traditional techniques, ATF produces evidence-driven cases on the most dangerous offenders. We are proud to work with all our partners on this important initiative in cities around the country.”

“Drug-related crimes and violence continue to have a significant impact on our communities and demand a new approach,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “Two years ago, DEA implemented Operation Overdrive, a data-driven, intelligence led approach to identifying and dismantling criminal drug networks doing the most harm in communities, including in St. Louis, Missouri; Hartford, Connecticut; and Jackson, Mississippi. This approach allows us to map the threats and shift our resources so that our drug enforcement efforts will have the greatest impact in our communities. Expanding the Violent Crime Initiative further extends our potential to successfully investigate and prosecute criminals by harnessing the full potential of state, local, and federal partnerships.”

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