ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Thursday, August 14, 2008

www.justice.gov

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey at Project Safe Neighborhoods Press Availability

Good morning, and thank you, Troy. I met this morning with staff from the U.S. Attorney's Office, and with members of the Metro Gang Task Force, to thank them for doing a great job for Colorado in the fight against violent crime.

Among the most troubling criminal threats that this area, and many others across the country, face today are gang and gun violence. From a law enforcement perspective, these two threats are closely linked, and we have to go after them with a unified strategy. We also have to fight them together, as one team — state, local, and federal law enforcement officers, along with civic and community groups, schools, religious organizations, and parents. The U.S. Attorney’s Office here in Colorado has been doing just that and in my meetings this morning I heard about the concrete results that this cooperation has yielded.

The Department of Justice’s commitment to this partnership strategy is demonstrated by the creation of Project Safe Neighborhoods and other targeted anti-gang efforts. Since it was begun in 2001, Project Safe Neighborhoods, or PSN, has provided approximately $2 billion to hire new prosecutors, support investigators, provide training, deter juvenile gun crime, and develop community outreach efforts and other gun violence reduction measures.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, gun violence and gang activity are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, an essential part of the Department’s efforts to reduce gun violence is to challenge the gangs that prey on too many of our communities. Funding PSN makes sense because the program builds on proven law enforcement strategies. This includes focusing on gang members who are already convicted felons, but who still defy federal law by possessing guns or ammunition. Here in Denver, along the Front Range, and across Colorado, PSN is helping to ensure that gun-carrying gang members are brought to justice and removed from our communities.

For example, over the past few years, Project Safe Neighborhoods grants have funded efforts to target high crime areas in the Denver metropolitan area, and other cities along the Front Range that have experienced an increase in gang membership and activity. This includes developing an initiative to address the emerging problem of gangs in Colorado prisons; implementing a gang-free schools program; and conducting a public awareness campaign.

Our targeted approach, and the effectiveness of the Metro Gang Task Force, have led to several great successes recently, as you are all well aware. Just last month, a federal grand jury in Denver returned a 109-count indictment charging 27 members and associates of the Asian Pride street gang with drug crimes. That gang is alleged to have distributed hundreds of thousands of Ecstasy tablets in the Denver area.

And last year, the Task Force spearheaded one of the largest law enforcement operations in Colorado history against two violent gangs, the Rolling 30s Crips and the Tre Tre Crips. More than 450 local and state police officers, deputy sheriffs, and federal agents, with support from 12 SWAT teams, participated in that operation. And so far nearly 80 gang members, associates, and sources of illegal drugs have been indicted on narcotics, firearms, and money laundering charges.

Also joining us today as guests of the Metro Gang Task Force are law enforcement leaders from Northern and Southern Colorado. To combat increased violent gang activity in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Greeley, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has leveraged the PSN program to dramatically increase firearms prosecutions in these communities.

In addition to the vigorous enforcement of the law, and the prosecution of those who join gangs and terrorize our communities, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses on gang prevention – keeping young people out of gangs in the first place – and prisoner re-entry programs which help former gang members become contributing members of society.

There are very few “one size fits all” solutions to the crime problems America's neighborhoods face. The Department of Justice has much to offer in terms of training, and communicating the lessons learned by other areas around the country, but we can best help by providing tools and support with as few strings as possible.

Today, I am pleased to announce that this year the Department of Justice intends to award grants of more than $17 million to U.S. Attorneys' offices around the country to continue our efforts against gun crime.

These funds will be used by each district to support the programs and priorities specific to their communities, in partnership with the local groups that best know the situation on the ground. Since 2001, Colorado has received nearly $4 million in Project Safe Neighborhood funding.

Together with our partners here in Colorado and around the country, we want to send the message that a lifestyle of gangs and gun crime is a dead-end. It lures our youth with the false promise of status, respect and companionship, then delivers nothing but the reality of emptiness, violence, and prison. In the process, children lose their chance at a productive life; families lose their future; and communities lose both their sense of security and their next generation of leaders. It's a loss we simply cannot afford.

Now I would be happy to answer any questions you have.

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