Thank you, Eddie [Bocanegra]. I’m so pleased to join this incredible group here today, and so appreciate this city’s commitment to finding community-based solutions to violence here in Baltimore. It is great to be here with partners from the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, the city council, our U.S. Attorney’s Office and so many community leaders.
And thank you so much to Molly and to Kurt for welcoming us to Roca, and for the outstanding work that you and your team are doing for the people of this city.
On behalf of the Department of Justice, it’s a privilege to be here, and so humbling to meet with the dedicated professionals who are doing such vital work. I’m looking forward to our discussion a little later and to hearing how my colleagues and I can support you and lift up the message you are sending to your communities.
I just had the opportunity to hear from some incredible young men about their experiences with community violence. Each of them told remarkable and sobering stories about their own encounters with violence. But what was even more impressive were the deep insights they shared—about the profound effects of violent crime on a young person’s life and about what it takes to overcome the experience of trauma.
They talked about hope, they talked about building a future, for themselves and their children. They talked about how Roca provided them a safe space, a family, that pushed them to be the best versions of themselves and gave them the opportunity to do more—and give more.
These young men shared lessons in resolve and resiliency that we need to make sure that people across the country hear and learn—and we need to apply those lessons in communities challenged by violence.
One lesson that was made very clear to me is that we need to look at violence through a different lens. For too long, we have leaned too heavily on policing as the only solution to violent crime. We need police. But to build safe and healthy communities, we need more than just policing—we need to rely on the wealth of resources available through community-based service providers, faith-based organizations and those with lived experience who understand the problem better than anyone. There has long been an imbalance here that has often fed into a cycle of trauma and victimization.
We know there's a better way. Research shows that the vast majority of gun violence can be traced back to a small percentage of a city’s residents. We’ve seen how communities across the country are breaking the cycle of violence by engaging directly with those at highest risk of shooting, or of being shot themselves. Studies show that multifaceted, data-driven approaches can be effective in curbing violence. We can save lives and build safer communities by embracing our community members and community-based organizations as central partners in this work.
I’m very pleased that this Administration has called for an unprecedented investment in community violence intervention models that will build up and expand community infrastructure as a complement to law enforcement. And in June, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed, which provides $250 million over five years to support community violence intervention and prevention programs.
I’m proud that the Office of Justice Programs is making good on these commitments to CVI. In fact, today, I’m excited to announce that we are awarding $100 million to support our local partners under the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative.
Grants are going to more than 45 sites across the country. These resources will develop and expand community infrastructure, support holistic, cross-agency collaborations, seed new efforts and fund expansion plans. These investments will go to community-based nonprofits and city-led collaboratives. They’ll also help smaller organizations grow their work and build capacity. And CVI investments will support research so that we can better understand what works to reduce violence and save lives.
Three of the organizations are right here in Baltimore. Roca, the Living Classrooms Foundation and The Black Mental Health Alliance for Education and Consultation are receiving a total of $5.4 million to disrupt violence, address trauma and deliver support to those at high risk of committing violence or becoming its victims. And they will do this by working closely with partners—outreach leaders, police officers, social workers.
We know that even more is needed to meet the moment, which is why this Administration’s Safer America Plan has proposed $5 billion over 10 years to support CVI programs. But federal funding and support are only one part of the answer. We look to the wisdom and experience of those of you who have faced violence head on—and we are fortunate in my office to have such a source of wisdom in Eddie Bocanegra, who has been doing this work for many years on the streets of Chicago. Eddie will lead our roundtable discussion a little later.
Our goal at the Office of Justice Programs is to support communities, to help them become strong and vibrant. Our efforts are most effective when we are working in close partnership with leaders like you to expand opportunity, confront trauma and find effective, sustainable solutions that get to the root of community violence.
What you are doing is vital to fulfilling the promise of a better, a safer and a more just nation. I am grateful for all you do, and I look forward to supporting you in the critical work of building safer, healthier communities for all.