BOSTON, Dec. 15 /U.S. Newswire/ — The following are the prepared remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at the District of Massachusetts’ Annual Project Safe Neighborhood Conference (1 of 2):
Thank you, Mike Sullivan, and good morning everyone.
It’s always a pleasure to come back to Boston, an area I knew as home when I was in law school.
My memories of those years are good ones. It was a time of dreams for me and my classmates, as we began to reach for the goals we’d all set our sights on as young people — really, since we were more children than young adults.
I arrived in New England from a poor outskirt of Houston, Texas. The first in my family to have gone to college, to be in law school at all was a dream come true.
My personal experience has been that the United States is a place where a child can dream big dreams…and fulfill them. I believe deeply that this can be true for all Americans, all of this great nation’s children…but not when their neighborhoods and their lives are limited by fear and violence.
That’s why we work so hard – everyone in this room today — to make the streets of our communities safer, every day.
It’s why the U.S. Attorney’s office here in Massachusetts worked with local and state agencies this fall, for example, to indict eighteen defendants for distribution of crack and powder cocaine in the Bromley-Heath housing development in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston. Two of the defendants in that case are alleged to have used minors in their drug dealing activities.
Everyone who worked on that case — federal, state and local officials — contributed to the protection of the people, especially the children, of the Bromley- Heath housing development.
Because an environment that is poisoned by drugs, gangs, gun crime and violence is no place for a child’s dreams to flourish.
This is what the Project Safe Neighborhoods partnership, our community, our team is all about – protecting the dreams of America’s youth.
Whether you are on the offensive line of fighting violent crime — the part of the team that catches and prosecutes dangerous criminals — or you are on the defensive line, if you will — a team-member who works hard to keep young people from choosing a life of crime in the first place — in either role, you are making the state of Massachusetts a safer place to live and raise families. You are to be commended for your efforts.
It has been said that law enforcement is not a spectator sport – and I couldn’t agree more.
But the same can absolutely be said of community- service work. It is not a spectator sport by any means, either – in fact, it couldn’t be more hands-on.
Both parts of this team work hard and face the toughest of challenges — there’s no question about that. The key at this stage is learning how to best work together, every day.
In May of this year, I asked all of the U.S. Attorneys to hold Gang Prevention Summits that would bring together law enforcement and community leaders to discuss current, effective programs, identify gaps in services, and develop a plan for working in partnership to prevent youth from joining gangs. I felt it was time to have formal, organized summits because it had become clear that removing the scourge of gangs and gang violence from America’s neighborhoods will require an integrated, comprehensive approach that includes both law enforcement and the prevention efforts uniquely offered by community-service groups.
So this conference is one of many being held around the country this year, and I am optimistic about the progress that will be made as a result.
Increasing prevention in your neighborhood can come from something as simple as meeting the community leader or volunteer sitting next to you in this room today. Each conversation at a summit like this has the potential for shared ideas and new, creative approaches to reducing violent crime and protecting the future of our children.
I’d like to pause for just a moment to offer a few specific words of thanks for the law enforcement community, because these are difficult times for you.
Every day, you wake up to fight the long-term battles of traditional crime — violent and otherwise – – while at the same time turning a sharp eye towards potential terrorist activity and acting as the first- response in any situation your community faces.
This isn’t an easy job, but you are doing it well. America has not been attacked in over five years, and the President and I deeply appreciate how important law enforcement is in preventing terrorist attacks. I believe that, because of this common mission, federal, state and local law enforcement are more integrated than ever.
But the increased responsibilities for law enforcement since September 11th are one of the reasons we need our partners in community service more than ever. Their goals are the ultimate complement to law enforcement because they seek to make neighborhoods safer by preventing criminal activity … so that arrests and prosecutions are not needed.
To the community servants here today, I also offer thanks. You’d like to keep kids from joining gangs and living the “thug life” altogether and that is my idea of an outstanding solution.
The President and I are grateful for what all of you do — and I am speaking both as Attorney General and as the father of young sons.
When I put my children to bed at night, it is the most precious time of day. At those moments, my boys are safe. Their dreams and laughter fill the room and their futures seem endless with opportunity and the potential for joy.
The morning light, however, pulls back the curtains on a different reality for all children. The world outside is dangerous, threatening. From drugs and gangs to predators and pedophiles…it is a full-time job for our entire society to keep our children safe from all those threats.
Kids in tough situations join gangs to find companionship and status – false promises of a lifestyle that in reality brings crime, violence, jail time and even death.
The violence of gangs then spills over into the community, making it less safe for everyone.
So if we can save that child who might be tempted by a life of violence, we can save the community.
This is why our shared goal of prevention is a common-sense one as well as a noble one.
In a panel this morning, you heard from Dan Sweeting, a former Brockton firefighter who lost his son to gang life.
Dan shared his story with you, as he shares it with students, teachers, parents — anyone who will listen. This simple act of sharing his family’s story is an act of heroism and I believe Dan’s dedication to a better future will help save children who might otherwise choose the wrong path.
We need an army of Dan Sweetings in every state, every city — people who are willing to stand up and say “no more.” Parents who won’t rest until every child has been told the truth about gangs and given full access to positive alternatives.
I’m glad that you were also able to hear from Truesee Allah this morning, a former gang member and felon who served his time and re-entered the world a changed man, through faith. Today he volunteers in a re-entry program so that other convicted criminals will see that a return to crime is not the best path. Every officer and every prosecutor in America needs men like Truesee and Dan on their side. If you take anything away from this conference today, take inspiration and ideas from their stories — and resolve to find men and women like them in your communities, to help you win this fight.
Take as many of the ideas and best practices as possible from the panelists you will hear from today-
— Because we all need to mine new ideas from our colleagues, all the time.
— Because criminals evolve, so law enforcement must, too.
— And because when violent crime goes up, as the people of Massachusetts have seen in recent years, no single person or single group brings it down alone.
To have gathered together — a truly diverse group of crime-fighters — for this meeting shows that everyone here knows that simple truth: That our shared responsibilities to serve and protect are vast. None of us can do it alone, and we can’t always rely on traditional formulas.