HOUSTON – The U.S. Department of Justice, together with numerous law enforcement partners, met today at Jack Yates High School in Houston to announce a new initiative that will surge law enforcement tools and resources to target gangs who are terrorizing communities in Houston.
“This new violent crime initiative, led by the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), will surge the tools and resources we use to investigate and prosecute violent crime nationally and apply those tools to gangs who are terrorizing communities here in Houston,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr., of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
The new initiative will include federal prosecutors from OCGS, our nation’s foremost experts in charging federal racketeering (RICO) prosecutions, as well as dedicated investigative agents, analysts and forensic experts from the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service, Houston Police Department (HPD) and the Harris County Sherriff’s Office (HCSO).
“Together we will employ a data-driven approach to strategically identify and prosecute the worst of the worst criminals and gang members who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime in underserved communities in Houston,” said Assistant Attorney General Polite.
The initiative will also include efforts to invest in prevention, intervention and reentry. Today the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs announced grant awards totaling $100 million to help communities across the U.S. reduce gun crime and other serious violence. Included in that announcement is a $2 million award to Harris County in Houston to provide funding to community and hospital-based violence interruption programs.
“If we work together to battle the problem, we can make a difference,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery of the Southern District of Texas. “This is our community, too, and we want to do all we can to make sure everyone feels safe here in Houston.
As part of the announcement, Assistant Attorney General Polite and U.S. Attorney Lowery met with Yates students to hear directly from them about the violence and gang activity in their neighborhoods. They also met with various community and faith-based leaders and business owners in the Third Ward.
Joining Assistant Attorney General Polite and U.S. Attorney Lowery in the press conference today were Chief Troy Skinner of the HPD; Special Agent in Charge James Smith, FBI Houston Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski, ATF Houston, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, HCSO, and Associate Deputy Director Cornelia Sigworth, of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs.
OCGS is leading the new violent crime initiative in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and will include dedicated investigative agents, analysts and forensic experts from the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, HPD, HCSO as well as many other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.