Justice Department announces nearly $80 million to help communities fight violent crime

Washington — The Justice Department is set to invest nearly $80 million in additional funding to support community violence intervention programs across the country as part of the federal government’s multifaceted strategy to counter years of rising crime rates, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday. 

At the same time, Garland said federal law enforcement officials are turning their attention to reducing violence in St. Louis, Missouri; Jackson, Mississippi; and Hartford, Connecticut, as part of an ongoing initiative to surge resources to areas experiencing spikes in crime.

Homicides decreased nationwide by 13% in 2023, according to FBI statistics that Garland highlighted while speaking in Chicago. Overall, federal data indicate a 6% decrease in violent crime in communities across the country in 2023 compared to 2022. 

Although he acknowledged that “there is still so much more to do,” the attorney general credited community violence intervention programs with some of the decreases in crime rates. These initiatives — funded by Justice Department grants — use evidence-based practices and data to work to end cycles of violence in communities deemed most likely to either commit or be victimized by violent crime. 

US Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives to announce an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on March 21, 2024. 

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

According to Justice Department officials, populations throughout the country who are closest to the violence are also likely to be the most well-equipped to work toward solutions, prevent escalations and stop violent acts before they occur. 

Over the last two years, the Justice Department has injected approximately $200 million into 76 initiatives including nonprofit organizations and states and local municipalities, from the city of Richmond, Virginia, to a California-based organization aimed at reducing retaliatory gun violence. 

An organization based in Newark — the Newark Community Street Team — received $2 million in grants from the Justice Department to aid its work to reduce violence by “engaging in high-risk intervention” and providing support to survivors of violent crimes. 

“The Justice Department is committed to continuing to make historic investments in community violence intervention,” Garland said Wednesday to a group of more than 700 representing some of the grant recipients.

Still, gun violence remains the leading cause of death among young people, according to federal law enforcement officials who spoke about the community programs last week. That statistic, they said, demonstrates the need to bring targeted crime reduction approaches to younger populations. 

Funding these local strategies can only do so much to tamp down violent crime as illegal guns continue to flood into communities, however. Garland said the Justice Department was also working to crack down on black-market guns.

“Violent crime isolates people and their communities. It deepens the fractures in our public life,” he warned Wednesday. “When it is not addressed, it can undermine people’s trust in government and in each other.”

Amid rising crime rates in 2021, the Justice Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy to issue grants to target the gun violence epidemic, the rise of hate crimes and officer shortages in law enforcement agencies nationwide. In November, the department announced nearly $217 million in funding for hiring 1,730 entry-level officers at 394 agencies in 48 states through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services’ hiring program.

While violent crime across some of the nation’s biggest cities decreased last year — Philadelphia and Baltimore each saw 20% reductions in homicides between 2022 and 2023, according to federal numbers — it remains unclear what effect federal programs are having on perceptions across the U.S. A Gallup poll released in November 2023 found 77% of Americans believed there was more crime in the country, compared to 2022. Nearly two-thirds polled felt there was either a “very” or “extremely” serious crime problem. 

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