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SPEECH


AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Good afternoon. Thank you to the U.S. Conference of Mayors for inviting me to participate in this important session, joining local and federal leaders who are on the front lines of addressing gun violence in communities across the country. I am eager to hear the challenges you’re facing and ways that we can work together to make our cities safer.

I don’t have to tell you that gun violence is one of the most pressing and devastating challenges facing our nation. As mayors, you see the trauma of violence first-hand. You are there to offer comfort to your residents, to ensure that survivors’ needs are met and to support your community on the path to healing. Among the many hats you wear as mayors, “chief consoler” must be among the most difficult.

None of us – no single mayor or federal agency – can hope to tackle the complex, multifaceted challenge that is gun violence on our own. Fortunately, we don’t have to. Around the country, cities like Baltimore, Miami, St. Louis and Kansas City are bringing together government, law enforcement, service providers and community in pursuit of the shared goal of stopping the violence.

And we are starting to see the impact of these efforts, with homicide rates in many places dropping significantly in the last year. But there is so much more progress to be made.

At the Office of Justice Programs, we’re proud to support your cities as you build comprehensive safety solutions. We’re taking an approach centered on advancing community safety, building community trust and strengthening the community’s role as co-producer of safety and justice. We are working to help build the community infrastructure that is an essential complement to law enforcement when it comes preventing and reducing violent crime.

Over the past two years, OJP has made an unprecedented investment in community violence intervention strategies that deploy trusted credible messengers to mediate conflicts, interrupt cycles of violence and build bridges to opportunity among residents at highest risk of shooting or being shot themselves.

OJP has awarded nearly $200 million in grants over the last two years under our Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative. This is the largest targeted federal investment in these strategies in history, and to date we’ve funded 76 site-based grantees in 29 states, as well as microgrants in many communities. These include city-led collaboratives, community-based nonprofits and multi-site state initiatives that both seed new efforts and expand established interventions. The vision here is to grow and strengthen CVI ecosystems and ensure they connect to the larger public safety infrastructure in your cities.

These resources are for you, and for your network of partners in the community. So far, we’ve invested nearly $60 million dollars in 30 local governments that are now leading multi-sector coalitions to implement CVI strategies. I believe Mayor [Quinton] Lucas is leading one of these efforts in Kansas City. We’re reaching jurisdictions impacted by violence across the country, from Los Angeles to Orlando, Baton Rouge to Boston. We’re advancing safety in some of our nation’s largest cities, as well as in rural communities and smaller metro areas where we know the needs are different but also great.

No matter the size of the city, collaboration is a core element of this work. Nearly two-thirds of our fiscal year 2023 grantees have established partnerships with law enforcement, more than a quarter are engaging with prosecutors’ offices and many are working with research partners. The CVI initiative also delivers hands-on assistance to current grantees and to jurisdictions that aren’t grantees, helping to ensure that all communities have access to the support they need to implement these lifesaving interventions.

As you know so well, this is complex works that demands a community-wide response, and success depends on the expertise and credibility of people who have lived through these challenges. This is why we are so fortunate to have Eddie Bocanegra serving as Senior Advisor for Community Violence Intervention and guiding our efforts at the Office of Justice Programs. Many of you may know Eddie from his groundbreaking work at READI Chicago. As documented by rigorous research by the University of Chicago, READI participants saw large reductions in arrests and victimizations, and every dollar invested in the program returned roughly four dollars in societal benefits.

We’re seeing promising results from evaluations of other CVI models too, and through our National Institute of Justice, we will continue to build the base of research so that we can continue to learn what works to save lives.

Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which I am sure you’ll hear more about from Rob, we will continue investing in CVI, as well as other violence reduction programs, including the Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program. Byrne SCIP was created by the BSCA to support state crisis intervention efforts, including Extreme Risk Protection Order programs that are designed to keep guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves or others.

More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted ERPO laws, and these programs have been used in response to threats of suicide and interpersonal violence, including mass shootings. With BSCA funding, we are supporting a new National ERPO Resource Center, run by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. The Resource Center will be launching a website in early spring to offer resources and take requests to help jurisdictions implement these programs in a way that ensures constitutional protections and saves lives.

I am also pleased to share a new resource that was expressly created for you – mayors and city leaders who are addressing community violence and want an easier way to see and access OJP resources. Our new Violent Crime Reduction Roadmap was released in December and is organized around an important report created by the Council on Criminal Justice. It’s called “Saving Lives: Ten Essential Actions Cities Can Take to Reduce Violence Now,” and it identifies key strategies, such as identifying the people and places driving violence, using trauma-informed approaches and investing in anti-violence workforce development.

What the Roadmap does is identify – in one place – Justice Department resources to help you address violence in your own cities. It includes not only available funding opportunities, like CVI, but also technical assistance, reports, guidance and webinars. We’ve also got a technical assistance partner in the Police Executive Research Forum. They’ve brought together a team of experts who can help city leaders navigate what resources are out there and identify strategies for tackling the 10 Essential Actions.

I also want to highlight crime gun intelligence centers, which can help identify crime gun sources, increase clearance rates and ultimately reduce violent crime. This has been a terrific collaboration with our partners at ATF – and I know you’ll hear more from Director [Steve] Dettelbach shortly.

Before I turn things over to him, I want to make sure you are all aware that our grant solicitation season is about to get underway. In early February, we will be releasing our program plan outlining scores of funding opportunities that will be open to local jurisdictions. I encourage you to be on the lookout for those announcements, including new CVI funding opportunities. We’ve also got a new interactive map on the OJP website which can show you what grants are already being invested in your cities.

While the problem of gun violence problem is heart-wrenching, it is also preventable. We know mayors are on the front lines, and OJP is here to support your efforts through the funding, technical assistance and other resources I’ve described. So please come to us with your challenges, your requests, your needs and certainly your successes. We look forward to working with you.

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Date Published: January 17, 2024