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Strong and Thriving Partnerships
February 13, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).

Last week at the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) Capital Conference, I was honored to receive the prestigious NDAA President’s Award and to deliver one of my last speeches as Assistant Attorney General.  The occasion provided me the opportunity to reflect on the Department of Justice’s productive partnership with state and local prosecutors.

The elected prosecutor plays an indispensable leadership role, embodying the will of the community to address its most pressing crime and justice problems.  In an era of diminishing resources and growing public safety responsibilities, that role is more important than ever.  I am proud that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) continues to provide these professionals with the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

Through our Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), we have awarded almost $18.5 million to state and local prosecutors’ offices to support mortgage fraud investigation and prosecution, joining our work to a Department- and Administration-wide effort to fight this crime.  NDAA has been a key training and technical assistance partner and is helping to develop a mortgage fraud training curriculum for prosecutors.

Prosecutors are also on the front line in our fight against child abuse and exploitation.  OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and NDAA’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse have worked closely together to train and assist thousands of professionals who investigate and prosecute these cases.  Last year alone, we provided training to more than 12,500 people.

And prosecutors are central to reducing the influence of gangs.  With support from BJA, NDAA published a guide for prosecutors on the use of civil gang injunctions and has disseminated several thousand copies to jurisdictions across the nation.  As a result of a site visit to Ogden, Utah conducted under the auspices of this project, prosecutors won an injunction against the Ogden Trece gang that resulted in a 40 percent decline in gang graffiti and a drop in overall gang crime of 10 percent from the previous year.

These are among the many areas in which OJP is supporting the work of state and local prosecutors.  As I depart OJP at the end of February and hand over leadership to my Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary – herself a former prosecutor – I am satisfied that, thanks to strong partnerships with organizations such as NDAA, we will continue to make important gains in public safety.

Interdepartmental Tribal, Justice, Safety, and Wellness Session Held in New Mexico
December 14, 2011 Posted by

Over 300 tribal leaders, health and law enforcement professionals from across the country are meeting in Santa Ana Pueblo to begin the latest in a series of sessions to improve collaboration with tribal governments and policy leaders.   This national gathering, held in partnership with several other federal agencies, is an opportunity to converse face-to-face on a range of important topics and to attend workshops on some pressing issues.

Our list is long but some of the topics that we’ll be discussing include:

  • the implementation of the Tribal Law and Order Act, 
  • the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act; 
  • Tribal Youth Programs; suicide prevention; 
  • alcohol and substance abuse action planning; and 
  • sex offender registration and notification. 

Marylou Leary, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, describes the scope and purpose of the Session like this:

“The Tribal, Justice, Safety, and Wellness Session is an embodiment of the Justice Department’s continuing commitment to build and sustain safe and healthy communities in Indian country. We can only accomplish this goal through active engagement and collaboration with communities, many of whom are undertaking ground-breaking programs to address their most pressing issues in ways that also strengthen capacity and self-determination.”

The conference will also include consultations with tribal leaders on the Justice Department’s streamlined grant-making effort (Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation – CTAS), the Tribal Law and Order Act Long Term Plan to Build and Enhance Tribal Justice Systems (Tribal Justice Plan), and the Annual Tribal Consultation on Violence Against Native Women.  
Susan B. Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, describes the importance of the sessions in this way:

“The Office on Violence Against Women looks forward to strengthening our efforts to improve the responses to violence against women in tribal communities by actively participating in the ongoing dialogue with tribal leaders, consultation participants, task force members and CTAS grantees.  We need to hear the unique perspectives of all our partners as we improve our funding, research, and programmatic activities.  The safety of American Indian women is my priority and a priority of this Administration.” ‬

Bernard Melekian, the COPS Office Director, stated:

“The COPS Office is proud to be a part of this comprehensive approach to developing the training and resources necessary for enhanced public safety in tribal communities.  This federal partnership was created because of the guidance tribal leaders have provided the department.  Nothing can replace hearing directly from tribal leaders about how we can better serve their communities.  Together, we are offering maximum flexibility in our grant programs and services to tribal law enforcement, delivered in a much more efficient and effective manner.”

This week’s Interdepartmental Tribal, Justice, Safety, and Wellness representatives include the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Native American Issues Subcommittee in the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, Office of Tribal Justice, and Office on Violence Against Women; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Indian Health Service, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Office of Minority Health in the Office of the Secretary; Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Office of Native American Programs; the Small Business Administration; and the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

Find more information on Department-wide initiatives in Indian country at  

New Report: U.S. Homicide Rate Falls to Lowest Rate in Four Decades
November 18, 2011 Posted by

This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced that in 2010 the U.S. homicide rate fell to 4.2 homicides per 100,000 residents, the lowest U.S. homicide rate in four decades.  

The new homicide statistics are part of a report by BJS: Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008, which details homicide patterns and trends in the United States from 1980 to 2008. 

Overall, the U.S. has experienced a significant drop in the total homicide rate since 1980. In 1980, the U.S. homicide rate hovered at 10.2 per 100,000 residents, more than twice the current homicide rate. In the early 1980s, the homicide rate gradually fell for a few years but rose again beginning in the middle of the decade, peaking at an all-time high of 24,703 homicides in 1991. Since the homicide rate spiked in the early 1990s, it subsequently declined, reaching a four-decade low last year. 

Much of the decline in the nation’s homicide rate is due to a decrease in homicides occurring in large cities — defined as cities with at least 100,000 residents. Since 1980, 57.7 percent of homicides in the U.S. have occurred in large cities, and more than one third of those homicides occurred in the nation’s largest cities — defined as cities with at least 1 million residents. 

The BJS report shows that the largest cities experienced a dramatic decrease in homicide rates since 1980, which is a prominent factor in the total drop in the nation’s homicide rate. From 1991 to 2008, the homicide rate in the largest cities was cut by nearly two thirds, falling from 35.5 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1991 to 11.9 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2008.                                                                                                                            

In addition to mapping out homicide rates by year and region, the study paints a detailed picture of U.S. homicides by breaking down homicide numbers by a variety of other criteria including:

  • Victim/Offender Relationship: More than 56 percent of homicide victims were acquaintances with the assailant.
  • Weapon: Handgun-involved homicides increased in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and fell to a low in 2008.
  • Circumstance: The number of homicides that occurred during the commission of another felony, such as a robbery or burglary, declined from about 5,300 homicides in 1991 to 2,600 homicides in 2000, then stabilized through 2008.                                                          

For more information about homicide trends over the last three decades, please visit the Bureau of Justice Statistics website and read the full report.

School-Level Interventions Reduce Dating Violence
November 15, 2011 Posted by

This post appears courtesy of Dr. John H. Laub, Director of the National Institute for Justice (NIJ).

Last week, the National Institute of Justice released new findings which suggest that school-level interventions can significantly reduce dating violence among middle school students.

The study focused on the effectiveness of dating violence and sexual harassment prevention programs in 30 New York City public middle schools. When school-level interventions were implemented in the study, dating violence dropped by up to 50 percent. The findings suggest that a few low-cost initiatives could go a long way to reducing violence among young people.

While dating violence and harassment are typically thought of as problems affecting grown adults, it’s a real problem among young people and one that can have long-lasting consequences. In the last school year, nearly half of 7th through 12th graders said they experienced sexual harassment.

Physical injury, poor mental health, increased high-risk behavior, and increased school avoidance are all tied to dating violence and sexual harassment, which is why the Department of Justice has made it a priority to investigate initiatives that could reduce the prevalence of these life-altering crimes.

There are a number of varied programs across the country working to curb dating violence, but there has been a lack of scientific data supporting programs for middle school students. The NIJ’s study on middle school prevention programs is one of the only studies on the effectiveness of initiatives designed to reduce dating violence among 6th and 7th graders. We hope these findings will allow groups to better optimize their resources and improve the tools they’re using to prevent dating violence.

Relationships early in life can have a lasting impact on the maturation of young people, and the NIJ study is a hopeful sign that a few low-cost initiatives could go a long way to improving the lives of our young people and setting them up for a healthier future.

The multi-level, randomized trial found that:

  • School-level interventions such as school-based “boundary agreements”, which are akin to restraining orders between students, and increased faculty and security presence in “hot spots” effectively reduced dating violence and sexual harassment — in some cases reducing dating violence by as much as 50 percent.  
  • Combining these school-level interventions with a classroom-level intervention administered through a six-session curriculum also reduced sexual harassment.  
  • Classroom-level interventions alone, which included instruction on state laws and penalties, consequences for perpetrators, and the construction of gender roles and healthy relationships, were not effective.

Other critical findings included:

  • The combination of the classroom and school-level interventions and the school-level interventions alone led to a 32-47 percent reduction in peer sexual violence victimization and perpetration six months after the intervention was implemented.
  • Students receiving the school-level intervention were more likely to intend to intervene as a bystander six months post-intervention.

Focus groups helped researchers understand how interventions were employed and received.  The groups confirmed that the interventions were straightforward to put in place, were implemented as planned, and were supported by teachers.

The possible implications of these results are substantial. The success of the school-level interventions is particularly important because these interventions can be implemented with very few extra costs to schools. Given the large size of the study (with more than 2,500 students) and the ethnic diversity of these students, these interventions may be successful among a broad range of populations.

This study was co-funded by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education. 

For more information, download the full study (PDF) from NIJ.

Online System Can Help Consumers Avoid Buying Flood-Damaged Vehicles
September 28, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Denise E. O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

 On August 29th, the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Irene was devastating the eastern coastline of the United States.  Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee both caused major flooding. Evacuations were ordered from Vermont to North Carolina.  

As recovery efforts are underway, one flood-related hazard consumers may want to keep in mind is the impact of floods on vehicles. Severe water damage can make vehicles’ electrical systems, including their airbag sensors, prone to failure.  Despite compromised electrical systems, these vehicles may be dried out, cleaned, and sold to unsuspecting consumers.

Consumers can protect themselves from unknowingly buying a flood-damaged vehicle by purchasing a National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) vehicle history report available at

 This system was created by federal law and is the only publicly available system in the country that requires all insurance carriers, auto recyclers, junk and salvage yards, and states to report vehicle information.  Currently, there are 35 million salvage or total loss records in the system.  In addition, 87 percent of the country’s Department of Motor Vehicle data is represented in the system.  

 A NMVTIS vehicle history report provides information on the five key indicators associated with preventing vehicle-related fraud and theft:

  • Current state of title and last title date;
  • Brand history, a descriptive label assigned by states to indicate a vehicle’s current or prior state—for example: “junk,” “salvage,” “flood;”
  • Odometer reading;  
  • Total loss history; and
  • Salvage history. 

 The report also helps consumers verify the validity of the title to prevent fraud and identify vehicles that are potentially unsafe. If a vehicle has a brand, total loss, or salvage history, then the consumer is warned that the vehicle may be unsafe.  A NMVTIS vehicle history report does not include vehicle repair histories, recall information, and other care and maintenance data available in alternative vehicle history reports.

 Shop smart. Make sure you have all the information about a vehicle before making a purchase.

 For more information about NMVTIS, visit

Fighting Human Trafficking Requires A Coordinated Effort
September 21, 2011 Posted by

This post is based on the written testimony of Mary Lou Leary, Prinicipal Deputy Assistant Attorney, in DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, about the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act passed in 2000.  Ms. Leary appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on September 14, 2011. 

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.  Trafficking victims are viewed as property.  They exist in every corner of our society, working long hours for little or no pay.   We may see them every day, but never know what’s truly going on beneath the surface.  Some work in elegant restaurants and high-end hotels.  Others live in the murky shadows of nondescript neighborhoods and the gloomy light of urban nightclubs. 

Fighting human trafficking and serving trafficking victims are among the most difficult challenges facing law enforcement and victim services today.  One element of this crime that makes it so challenging to address is that trafficking victims are often hidden from society and prevented from contacting people who might help them.  Traffickers control victims through physical, psychological, emotional, familial and economic forms of coercion.  They also exploit a trafficking victim’s fear of deportation and use threats of reprisals against loved ones in the home country to further coerce and control a victim.  Because of the secrecy surrounding this crime, it’s very difficult to determine the number of victims or the number of perpetrators.  

The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), through its Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), supports 42 human trafficking task forces operating across the country.  These task forces proactively investigate cases of minor and adult trafficking and support successful prosecutions of traffickers.  They raise community awareness of the dangers of trafficking and the plights of its victims.  And they provide critical services to these victims, including case management, food, shelter, transportation, counseling and medical care. 

Between January 2008 and June 2010, these task forces investigated 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking.  Over this same period, the task forces arrested 144 suspected traffickers.  Collectively, these task forces have trained more than 205,000 federal, state, tribal, and local criminal justice and victim service professionals.
OJP emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to human trafficking and encourages close partnerships among federal prosecutors, state and local law enforcement, victim service providers, and other federal partners, including the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and State.  

Experience demonstrates that effective law enforcement in trafficking cases and effective victim services go hand-in-hand.  Victim service providers may be able to identify some victims of a particular trafficker, but they often will need effective law enforcement to reach the trafficker’s other victims, who are usually very frightened and unable to come forward on their own.  Law enforcement, in turn, needs victim service providers to help work with the victims to collect the critical information.  In addition, victims who receive immediate physical, mental, and emotional support will be much more able and willing to participate in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. 

As Attorney General Holder said at the DOJ 2010 National Conference on Human Trafficking:

“Those of us here today are bound together by an unrelenting commitment to eradicate the scourge of human suffering and involuntary servitude.   And we are united in the recognition that there isn’t a second to lose.   We must seize the opportunity to be a leader in the global fight against human trafficking, and to ensure that the nation we love remains a beacon of freedom for all humankind.”

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