US Attorney General Merrick Garland extolled the prevention of violence through early intervention during a speech Thursday in St. Louis.
Garland was a keynote speaker at a conference for community groups receiving Justice Department grants to fight violent crime. His remarks specifically focused on what is known as violence disruption, in which community activists try to stop people from committing crimes before they happen.
Several years ago, St. Louis began funding Cure Violence, a program that trains people from areas with high crime rates to intervene in conflict. One of the goals is to prevent disagreements from escalating into violent crimes. It has been credited with helping to reduce violence in some neighborhoods.
“The Justice Department is working to promote community violence intervention efforts that reach the individuals at highest risk—those most likely to be involved in violence and most likely to be victims of it,” Garland said. “We are funding programs that stop patterns of violence before they happen. And we’re supporting initiatives that expand opportunities in communities most burdened by that violence.”
Garland said his agency has already provided $100 million in grants to about 50 organizations across the country. While none of that money went to programs in St. Louis, some of that money went to anti-violence efforts in Kansas City. She added that the Justice Department will soon provide another $100 million under this initiative.
He said these efforts match the Justice Department’s broader crime-fighting goals.
“We are all here because we believe that everyone in this country deserves to feel safe in their communities,” Garland said. “Every person, on every street, in every neighborhood, deserves to feel protected. Every parent, in every neighborhood, deserves to know that their children are safe when playing outdoors. Fulfilling this promise is our urgent shared challenge.”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has touted some of the city’s efforts to connect people to mental health services. But he also said St. Louis’s crime-fighting job is made more difficult because Missouri lawmakers are generally hostile to gun control measures.
“We need to be honest about how lax gun regulations impact our communities and make people’s jobs in this room harder every day,” Jones said.
Jones went on to say that while city policymakers support what are known as red flag laws that could disarm people who pose a threat to themselves or others, “cities need to use every tool in our collective toolbox.” to protect people from the scourge of gun violence.”
“An innovative new approach is needed, especially as cities like St. Louis face challenges at other levels of government,” Jones said.