In Chicago Speech, US Attorney General Merrick Garland Says Feds ‘Doubling Down’ on Funding for Violence Intervention Programs

The Department of Justice said it will be “doubling down” on efforts to reduce gun violence and crime across the country through “unprecedented” federal investments in intervention programs.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced his department’s plan to spend $78 million to support community violence intervention programs and research.

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“Those funds will go directly to organizations, like those represented in this room,” he said during a speech in Chicago, “that are making strides in driving down violent crime and building community trust across the country.”

Garland spoke at the second annual Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Grantee Conference, which kicked off this week in Chicago.

In his speech, he cited FBI data that shows there was a 13% decline in the number of homicides recorded in major cities across the U.S. last year — the largest one-year decline seen in 50 years.

Chicago saw a similar decline in 2023, but Garland noted his department and others working to curtail gun violence “have so much more to do.”

“I do not need to tell this group, or this city, that violent crime is devastating,” Garland said, “and that the violent crime that began surging early in the pandemic took an enormous toll on communities across the country.”

Last year there were 2,880 people shot in total across Chicago, according to police department figures, which marks a 17% decrease from 2022. While the violence declines have been encouraging, Garland said this “hard-fought progress … can easily slip away.”

During his remarks Wednesday, Garland pointed to the work done by the Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago program, which aims to create opportunities for those who are at the highest risk of gun violence.

He said a study of that program found there’s been a 65% decline in shooting and homicide arrests among participants over the course of 20 months.

Eddie Bocanegra, a senior advisor in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, has helped lead READI Chicago. He believes the federal funding will help intervention programs maintain their existing work, while also allowing smaller organizations to scale up their range of services.

“When you have the federal government supporting this, it really signals to local government to say, hey, there’s something here that we really believe in,” he told WTTW News.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Amy Solomon said the Office of Justice Programs — the grantmaking component of the Department of Justice — has committed around $200 million to community-based groups and city-led collaboratives to address high violence over the past two years.

But Wednesday’s announcement means violence intervention programs will now be able to take advantage of that government funding.

“We know that addressing violent crime, it takes a comprehensive strategy and this is an important part of the puzzle, (but) it’s not the whole thing,” Solomon said. “We really think that these groups should be working and will be working and are working with their city infrastructure, law enforcement and with other providers in the community to make for some holistic change that will last.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected]

A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago. 

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