- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales yesterday called for more prosecutors, increased funding, new training, enhanced prevention efforts and a crackdown on violent offenders in a new Justice Department initiative to assist federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies in combating violent crime.

“Like many Americans, I grew up in a neighborhood that had little besides hopes and dreams — two things I consider to be the foundation for realizing the promises of this great nation,” Mr. Gonzales said during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

“But it is hard to hope, it is hard to pursue your dreams, if you live in fear and grow up in a neighborhood that is weighed down by gangs and violent crime,” he said. “Only the victims of violent crime and their families can really know and express the depth of the damage that is done by its perpetrators.”

Mr. Gonzales said the Justice Department is in the process of hiring 70 prosecutors to enable U.S. attorney offices nationwide to increase their efforts to prosecute violent crimes. He said federal law-enforcement agencies will begin a new series of coordinated “takedowns and fugitive sweeps” aimed at removing the maximum number of violent offenders from some of America’s most vulnerable communities.

Building on the expertise of state and local authorities, he said the department also will provide additional funding, assistance and training to law-enforcement officers and other local partners across the nation. The department also is making $125 million available to state and local governments and law-enforcement agencies to prevent and control crime.

Mr. Gonzales said the department also will distribute more than $18 million in grants among the 94 federal judicial districts to reduce and prevent criminal misuse of firearms. The department also is providing an additional $31 million for expanded efforts at combating gang violence nationwide, he said.

The funding is in addition to $2.5 million in grants announced in April to new anti-gang initiatives in Indianapolis; Oklahoma City; Rochester, N.Y.; and Raleigh/Durham, N.C.

In addition to increased law-enforcement efforts and assistance to state and locals, Mr. Gonzales said the department is committed to working closely with Congress to strengthen laws and provide necessary assistance to law-enforcement agencies nationwide.

He said the department’s fiscal 2008 budget includes $200 million for violent-crime-reduction grants and $13 million for other violent-crime-related efforts aimed at increasing the department’s ability to target firearms traffickers and prosecute gangs and violent criminals.

Although overall crime rates are down, Mr. Gonzales said law-enforcement authorities and community leaders are concerned about the level of youth violence, adding that offenders appear to be “younger and younger and their crimes are becoming more and more violent in nature.”

“We believe that prevention is the real solution to crime among our youngest citizens,” he said.

Last year, Mr. Gonzales began the “Initiative for Safer Communities” to investigate violent crime increases and devise solutions to help communities struggling with it. He said the department will seek to strengthen partnerships among federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies, as well as community leaders, while targeting the “worst of the worst” offenders nationwide.

The initiative will focus on the three primary areas: expanding federal law-enforcement efforts to target gang violence and criminal misuse of firearms; providing assistance to state and local law enforcement; and working with Congress to strengthen laws and increase penalties for violent crime offenders.

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