Department of Justice Supports Brooklyn Anti-Violence Project

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Department of Justice Supports Brooklyn Anti-Violence Project

Department of Justice Supports Brooklyn Anti-Violence Project

 

BJA Director Denise O'Donnell, with, from left, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, announces the grant for the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project.BJA Director Denise O'Donnell, with, from left, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, announces the grant for the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project.

Federal Grant Supports Anti-Violence Effort in Brooklyn

The Brownsville project uses evidence-based strategies to reduce recidivism among parolees

BROOOKLYN, N.Y., SEPT. 24, 2012—A multi-faceted partnership to lower violence in one of Brooklyn’s most beleaguered neighborhoods got a major boost this morning with the announcement of $599,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"Our community wants safe streets," says Mark Tanis, a representative of the Brownsville business community who grew up in the area."Our community wants safe streets," says Mark Tanis, a representative of the Brownsville business community who grew up in the area.The award to the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project is part of $11 million in funding being distributed to 15 neighborhoods across the country as part of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, which seeks to support well-researched, comprehensive approaches to reducing crime and violence, according to Denise E. O’Donnell, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the Department of Justice.

O’Donnell announced the grant at a press conference in Brownsville alongside several project partners, including New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and representatives of the Center for Court Innovation, which is coordinating the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project as part of its Brownsville Community Justice Center.

“While most of the country is enjoying a decline in crime, research tells us that there is a significant clustering of crime in … hot spots that account for a disproportionate amount of crime and disorder in many communities,” O’Donnell said. “Brownsville is a prime example of that dynamic and [the Byrne grant program] is an innovative approach to address that problem.”

D.A. Hynes agreed that “Brownsville has been much too dangerous a place for too long.” Even though the number of shooting events was down 8 percent by the end of August, there were still 61 incidences, Hynes said. Worse, there were 82 victims—an increase of four percent over the previous year, he said. “All of us are here this morning to pledge to the people of Brownsville that we are committed to making this neighborhood safer and healthier for all its residents,” he said.

Police Commissioner Kelly expressed a similar commitment. “When it comes to driving crime down or saving lives I can assure that the New York City Police Department is open to new ideas,” he said. “We see in the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project some very strong potential.”

He noted that last year marked the first time in 50 years that the number of murders in Brooklyn dropped below 200. Yet despite these encouraging numbers, “Much more work needs to be done. Why? Because there are too many guns and too many people out there on the street who are willing to maim and kill with those guns.”

To bring the point home, Kelly noted that just “this past Sunday just a few blocks from here a 15 year old became a victim of gun violence.”

Speakers emphasized the important role that the community plays in the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project.

“By far the large majority of our community wants safe streets and a sense of peace where they all call home,” said Mark Tanis, a representative of the Brownsville business community who grew up in the area.  “I am passionate about this grant because this will enable Brownsville to be a better and safer community. … We are strong and cannot be broken. We always bounce back.”

A key feature of the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project, which has been up and running for two months with the help of a grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and technical assistance from Yale Law Professor Tracey Mears, are monthly “call-in” forums where parolees returning to the neighborhood meet with representatives of law enforcement, social service providers, and ex-offenders who have gotten their lives back on track. Participants in the meetings receive a targeted, three-pronged message: that future violent behavior will be rigorously prosecuted at both the state and federal levels; that many ex-offenders have chosen to lead law-abiding lives; and that individuals seeking help will be supported by the community and its service providers.

Captain Joseph M. Gulotta of the 73rd Precinct speaks at the roundtable. In foreground is James Brodick, director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center. In background is Thomas Abt, the chief of staff of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.Captain Joseph M. Gulotta of the 73rd Precinct speaks at the roundtable. In foreground is James Brodick, director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center. In background is Thomas Abt, the chief of staff of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.“When it comes to violent crime, we know we can’t prosecute our way out of this problem. To do that and no more ignores the fundamental causes and the effects of violence on this community,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. The Brownsville Anti-Violence Project will seek to reduce the recidivism rate among “people who are going to be rejoining their families, rejoining their lives after incarceration. … That means less crime but it almost means fewer victims of crime, fewer people harmed by guns and violence,” she said.

James Brodick, director of the Brownsville Community Justice Center, said the Anti-Violence Project is listening to the community. Community surveys and focus groups have revealed common themes, including lack of opportunity for young people and fears of gangs and guns. “As much as people say that one of the ways to solve these problems is to open up more after-school centers or community centers, if young people don’t feel comfortable” crossing the street because of the threat of violence, then we have to do more, Brodick said.

Betsi Griffith of the Bureau of Justice Assistance moderates a roundtable discussion before the press conference. Mark Tanis is among the participants.Betsi Griffith of the Bureau of Justice Assistance moderates a roundtable discussion before the press conference. Mark Tanis is among the participants.Betsi Griffith, associate deputy director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, moderated a roundtable discussion among community partners before the press conference. Key features of the Byrne program include evidence-based research, Griffith said. In each of the Byrne grant sites, “we’ll be working in partnership with a research partner, who will help take a look at the data and make sure we’re clear on what’s causing the crime to happen, … what we know is effective in addressing those kinds of issues and what are some innovations we might support moving forward.”

In a press release, Attorney General Eric Holder said the grant provides “additional resources to communities that need them the most.” He added: “With today’s announcement, we reaffirm our commitment to relying on comprehensive, data-driven approaches for ensuring public safety – and investing in innovative strategies for protecting the American people from crime.”

Additional coverage:

Department of Justice Press Release

WNYC

New York Law Journal

Brooklyn Eagle

Bloomberg Businessweek

Listen to excerpts from the press conference:

BJA Director O'Donnell talks about the grant.

Police Commissioner Kelly explains how the "call-ins" will benefit Brownsville.

Police Commissioner Kelly articulates his willingness to test new ideas.

D.A. Hynes' pledges to make Brownsville safer and explains the function of the "call-ins."

BJA Associate Deputy Director Griffith describes the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program.

Brownsville Community Justice Center Director James Brodick outlines community priorities.

Community leader Mark Tanis speaks about the grant and community violence.

U.S. Attorney Lynch describes the three legs of the Department of Justice's anti-violence strategy.

Listen to a podcast summarizing the press conference.

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