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Thank you, Karhlton [Moore]. I am so pleased to welcome all of you to this National Summit to Reduce Violence and Strengthen Communities. Over the next two days, we will be discussing strategies to tackle the violent crime challenges that so many jurisdictions are facing. We will also challenge you to explore ways to improve public safety while strengthening the bonds of trust within your communities.
President Biden has made clear that America’s law enforcement officials and prosecutors can be counted on to take on our most pressing public safety challenges while at the same time safeguarding the rights of every American. But in order to achieve our goal of safe and strong communities, we need every stakeholder to play a part – community organizations, researchers, treatment providers and health professionals, faith-based groups, and community members themselves. Enforcement alone will not do the job. We need to target the root causes of community instability and create healthy alternatives for those who are most at risk of violence.
This is the philosophy that governs the Department’s violent crime strategy. The four core principles of the strategy – investing in prevention and intervention, fostering trust and legitimacy, setting strategic enforcement priorities and measuring results – form the very backbone of Project Safe Neighborhoods and our National Public Safety Partnership, and they run like a thread through all successful violence reduction efforts, going back to the earliest days of these programs.
As a young staffer in our National Institute of Justice in the late 90s, I was privileged to be involved in the earliest iteration of Project Safe Neighborhoods. With deep engagement from then-Attorney General Janet Reno and the leadership of a handful of visionary U.S. Attorneys, we developed the Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative – SACSI, as we called it.
SACSI took what we had learned from programs like Operation Ceasefire in Boston, including the value of multi-agency collaboration, the necessity of integrating data and research into practice and the importance of strategic problem solving, with leadership of the U.S. Attorney. The Ceasefire model was famously successful in reducing youth homicides, and we sought to harness that success and bring it to scale.
Building on those lessons, we funded 5 and then 10 sites, all focused on addressing serious violent crime. Many of you will recall that this was at a time when violent crime was only beginning to come down from historic highs, so the challenges in these communities were significant.
The strategies in each city were developed by multi-agency, multidisciplinary core groups led by U.S. Attorneys. Stakeholders from across the public safety and community spectrums provided their perspectives, and working groups engaged in problem solving focused on both prevention and enforcement.
One thing that was so critical – and unique – was the involvement of research partners. David Kennedy, who played a central role in developing Boston Ceasefire, was instrumental, as was the moderator of our first panel today, Ed McGarrell. Dr. McGarrell led the research effort at our Indianapolis site and was truly involved at the ground floor. Their work, and that of their colleagues across the 10 sites, helped us identify the common elements and drivers of success that we would later apply to PSN.
SACSI was remarkably successful. We saw substantial decreases in targeted violent crimes. Dr. McGarrell’s site, Indianapolis, reported a more than 50-percent drop in gun assaults in target neighborhoods, compared to a 19-percent decline city-wide. Homicides dropped more than 30 percent in the city in the year after the SACSI intervention.
SACSI’s success paved the way for expansion into what would become Project Safe Neighborhoods, which has continued to build on the lessons learned from those early years. I am excited about this next chapter for PSN, and I look forward to working with all of you to help write it.
This is an exciting moment – a challenging one, to be sure – but one that presents new opportunities for innovation, knowledge-building, collaboration and community safety.
I look forward to our discussions today and tomorrow, and I’m eager to strategize about how we move this work to the next level.
And it’s now my pleasure to introduce our next speaker.
As the second-ranking official in the Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco serves as the agency’s Chief Operating Officer.
She’s a veteran of the Department – in fact we first crossed paths in those early SACSI days when she was working on Janet Reno’s team. Deputy Attorney General Monaco’s exceptional public safety and national security credentials make her uniquely positioned to spearhead the Department’s violent crime strategy. We are so fortunate to have her leading this work.
Please welcome the Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco.