Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. Delivers Remarks at Announcement of New Violent Crime Initiative in Houston | OPA

Good morning, and thank you for that introduction, Jennifer. It’s an honor to be here in Houston at Jack Yates and to share this stage with so many dedicated public servants.

My name is Kenneth Polite and I am your Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. I have the honor of supervising over 1,400 public servants, tasked with working on wide range of criminal justice priorities. I can tell you that there is no greater obligation than to keep the American people safe.

Our gathering here this morning is our latest example of our commitment to fighting violent crime.

All of the public servants here – our U.S. Attorney, our District Attorney, our Police Chief, our Sheriff, our leaders of the local offices of the FBI and ATF – they are all in this community, each and every day, fighting to save lives on the streets of Houston.

I am honored to announce that the Criminal Division will be amplifying their work. In partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and our law enforcement partners, the Criminal Division is standing up a targeted initiative to fight violent crime in Houston. Together, we will surge the tools and resources we use to investigate and prosecute violent crime nationally, including the use of RICO charges, and apply those tools to gangs who are terrorizing communities here in Houston.

This new initiative, will include prosecutors from the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, our nation’s foremost experts in charging RICO prosecutions, alongside prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, as well as dedicated investigative agents, analysts, and forensic experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the United States Marshals Service, the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sherriff’s office, as well as many other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.  

Together, we will employ a data-driven approach to identify and prosecute the “worst of the worst” gangs and gang members who are disproportionately responsible for violent crime in underserved communities in Houston.  

Everyone should feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. Violent crime deprives communities of this fundamental security. Unfortunately, I know all too well that the constant drumbeat of violence keeps many from walking safely in their streets during the day or sleeping soundly in their beds at night.

This mission touches close to home for me. I come from a family of law enforcement officers, including my brother Damion who proudly serves on the Houston Police Department. And like many in this community, violent crime has taken family from me.

So preventing others from suffering that same loss to violent crime is what motivated me to serve the Department of Justice as a line prosecutor, as a U.S. Attorney, and now, as the Assistant Attorney General. We will never stop being vigilant in our pursuit of justice, particularly for victims of violent crime. 

But we cannot rely on prosecution or incarceration or enforcement alone to make our neighborhoods safer. Enforcement is a tool, and an important one, but it is not our only tool.

That is why this initiative will include efforts to invest not just in enforcement, but prevention, intervention, and reentry. We will do so in partnership with the department’s Office of Justice Programs.

In that regard, I am pleased to share that just this morning the Department of Justice announced $100 million in grants to help communities across the United States reduce gun crime and other serious violence. Included in that announcement is a $2 million award to Harris County, right here in Houston. I am proud to have Cornelia Sigworth here this morning who will provide more details on OJP’s work.

But be clear, we cannot achieve long-term success in any of these areas without the trust and assistance of the community we seek to serve and protect. We need members of the public to step forward and speak out against violence occurring in their communities.

And while enforcement may remove criminal actors from the community, it can only improve that community in the long-term where members of the community stand with us to invest in prevention, intervention, and reentry efforts that will break those cycles of violence.

We will work hard today, and every day, to build and strengthen those relationships of community trust. That’s why my team and I have been in the community, not just with our law enforcement partners, but meeting with faith leaders, community organizers, students, and educators from Jack Yates, and business owners in the Third Ward this afternoon.

Know that we will be part of this community going forward, far after any single prosecution ends. We are not above, below, our outside of this community. We are part of it. To all those assembled, to all those in this community, know that the Criminal Division stands ready to serve as your partner in this critical fight to combat and prevent violent crime.

I will now turn the podium over to U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery.

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