Thank you, Pacia [Anderson]. That was such a beautiful and powerful expression of what brings us to this work. We are so grateful to you for giving voice to the issues we’re here to address and for setting the tone for this conference.
Good morning, everyone, and welcome. I’m Amy Solomon, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs. It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome all of you to this first convening of the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative. “Together we gather.”
We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time. We’ve been anticipating the moment when community leaders, federal officials and philanthropy would come together to discuss community violence intervention as a centerpiece of public safety in America.
To show just how important this moment is to the Department of Justice, I am thrilled that we are joined today by our Associate Attorney General, Vanita Gupta, who you’ll hear from shortly. And tomorrow we will be joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
I want to thank Commissioner [Robert] Tracy for taking time out of his busy schedule to join us this morning and for welcoming us to the great city of St. Louis – and for his commitment to safe and just communities.
I also want to give a big shout-out to Eddie Bocanegra, our Senior Advisor for Community Violence Intervention at OJP. Eddie is a veteran of the CVI movement and our master of ceremonies. Many of you know Eddie from his groundbreaking violence reduction work in Chicago. We are so fortunate to benefit from his experience and expertise, and for his deep commitment to this work. I am grateful for Eddie’s leadership and fortunate to count him as colleague and friend.
I am also so pleased to be joined by my close colleagues and our key leaders at OJP. Here we’ve got:
- Karhlton Moore, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance;
- Liz Ryan, Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention;
- Kris Rose, Director of the Office for Victims of Crime;
- Nancy La Vigne, Director of the National Institute of Justice; and
- Alex Piquero, Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
You will hear from them and get to know them over the next couple days, as well as the amazing staff who’ve worked so hard to put this conference together.
And finally, a big thanks to all of you for being here this week. We know that you are needed in your home communities, but we are so grateful that you are here – to meet other CVI leaders, to network and to share ideas and energy. You will also hear more from us about our commitment to CVI – why we are investing in this work and what we’re doing, specifically, to support you as CVI leaders.
In May of 2021, the Department of Justice released its Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime, and it highlighted investing in community violence interventions as a key pillar of our approach to reduce and prevent violence. CVI is also a central component to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the President’s Safer America Plan.
But CVI is not just a talking point. It’s a must-have, a critical set of strategies and models that we know can help stop violence before it happens. The Department’s commitment in this area is a testament to the work so many of you have done for years – sometimes decades – often without the benefit of robust funding, the shine of the spotlight or dedicated federal support.
As CVI takes its place in the national conversation, there are a lot of questions about what is and what isn’t CVI. We know CVI takes many forms and looks different in every jurisdiction, but ultimately, our frame is about an expansion of community capacity to address local public safety challenges, and specifically, to prevent gun violence. Our goal is to invest in community infrastructure and expand the role of community partners, as a complement to law enforcement.
Our CVI initiative rests on four principles:
- First, we’re trying to reach community members who are at the highest risk of engaging in or becoming victims of violence, and providing a wide array of services to expand their opportunities in life.
- Second, we are being clear and intentional to support CVI as a community-driven, community-centered and equity-focused effort. We want to help empower communities to identify solutions strategies tailored to conditions in your home jurisdictions. And it means supporting interventions in places like hospitals, health facilities, schools and other community spaces.
- Third, we’re working to integrate CVI in the larger public health and public safety ecosystems. Our goal is to help build community resilience and social capital so that these strategies remain a permanent part of the landscape. It also means supporting those of you who are doing this work every day, addressing the trauma you confront and taking steps to protect your well-being.
- Finally, we want to build our base of evidence of what works to save lives. And to ensure the sustainability of CVI programs, we want to help build your capacity to collect and use performance data.
The Office of Justice Programs is investing unprecedented, dedicated resources in support of these principles and CVI strategies. In fact, thanks to the 2022 budget and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – and to your leadership in this space – last September we were able to award $100 million in grant funding to support CVI programs and research across the country, programs that each of you is leading. This is the largest targeted federal investment in these strategies in history, and I hope it faithfully supports and expands the kinds of programs that so many of you have designed and developed.
In this first traunch of awards, there are 47 site-based grants to community-based nonprofits and city-led collaboratives, both to seed new efforts and to fund expansion plans.
We’re also supporting three intermediary organizations – the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Metropolitan Family Services and the Latino Coalition for Community Leadership. These three organizations are providing funding and hands-on assistance to smaller community-based organizations, helping to build capacity and promote equitable access to federal resources in historically underserved communities nationwide.
We’re standing up a CVIPI Field Support Resource Center, led by LISC and the Heartland Alliance, that will offer free training and technical assistance to any stakeholder interested in establishing or enhancing community violence interventions, whether or not they received a federal grant. And we’ll be delivering tailored support to all of you – our CVI grantees – through a grant to the Community Based Public Safety Collective. The Collective and their partners represent a deep bench and a strong track record of doing effective CVI work, and I know they’ll be an enormous resource to you.
In addition, funds are supporting research and evaluation so that we can better understand what works best to reduce violence and save lives.
Collectively, these awards represent just an initial investment. We know that even more is needed to meet the moment. And in the next few weeks, we plan to release the fiscal year ‘23 solicitation which will further expand the CVI network and infrastructure.
None of this would be possible without the vision and leadership of people with lived experience – including many of you -- who are on the ground, doing this work each and every day, often under very challenging conditions. We are drawing our wisdom and our inspiration from you, and I am confident that with the impressive collaboration we are seeing within and across communities, from private partners and philanthropies, and through government investments at all levels, we will succeed in making community violence intervention a lasting pillar of our nation’s response to crime and violence.
I am so very encouraged and so very hopeful that the work we are doing together will make a profound and lasting difference. We are proud to be your supporters and partners in this cause, and I look forward to building on the incredible momentum you have all generated.
It's now my great privilege to introduce our next speaker.
Many of you know Vanita Gupta as a fierce champion of civil rights and equal justice. She has devoted her entire distinguished career to achieving a goal that has sometimes seemed elusive in our nation but that she has never given up on: equal rights and equal treatment for all Americans.
Her commitment to equity and fairness – and to the safety of our communities – is second to none. She has been a full and fervent partner in our work, and as the third-ranking official at the Department of Justice, she has been a vocal advocate of your work and a huge reason why the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative is a centerpiece of the Justice Department’s anti-violence strategy.
I could not be more thrilled that she is joining us today. Please give a warm welcome to the Associate Attorney General of the United States, Vanita Gupta.