On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Department of Justice is awarding $1.6 billion in grant assistance to communities throughout the United States to fund programs to "reduce violent crime and strengthen communities." With the U.S. often perceived as a "less safe" nation under Joe Biden, the department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) will administer the wide range of grants to organizations and communities across the country. Garland explained in a DOJ press release:
"The Department of Justice is committed to supporting our state and local partners to combat crime across the country. This latest round of funding will deliver critical public safety resources, helping public safety professionals, victim service providers, local agencies, and nonprofit organizations confront these serious challenges."
According to the DOJ, the awards will focus on the Biden-Harris administration's pledge to "address the rise in gun violence and other violent crime in communities across America." The press release states the grants will help support the department's Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime, announced in May, with a stated core principle "First we must foster trust and have legitimacy in the communities we serve." The grants will also advance President Biden's Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety, released in June. The administration's "comprehensive strategy" for this objective is to:
- Stem the flow of firearms used to commit violence, including by holding rogue firearms dealers accountable for violating federal laws;
- Support local law enforcement with federal tools and resources to help address summer violent crime;
- Invest in evidence-based community violence interventions;
- Expanding summer programming, employment opportunities, and other services and supports for teenagers and young adults; and
- Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter their communities.
With $21 million focused on hate crimes, the grant will support the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law by Barack Obama in 2009. Still, despite the two-term president's efforts, in 2016, most Americans expressed relations between black and whites in the U.S. worsened under Obama. Sharpening the focus on structural racism, the grant will also put $17.5 million in Project Safe Neighborhoods grants, which support efforts to address violent crime, "including the gun violence that is often at its core."
$139 million in grant funding through the department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) COPS Hiring Program (CHP) will provide direct funding to 183 law enforcement agencies across the nation, "allowing those agencies to hire 1,066 additional full-time law enforcement professionals." The COPS Office is the branch of the U.S. DOJ responsible for promoting "the practice of community policing by the nation's state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies through information and grant resources." In 2008, the COPS Office "kicked off the Child Sexual Predator Program (CSSP) with close to $16 million in grant funding.
While human trafficking—including children—remains a massive problem in the nation, the press statement touched on additional efforts of the extensive grant. Funds will be used to address a range of public safety challenges ranging from violent crime to human trafficking to retail thefts. The agency states, "these awards will provide additional tools to advance violence intervention activities and evidence-based police and prosecution strategies." The DOJ offers further explanation of the distribution of funds, explaining:
"Funds are also intended to reduce recidivism, help people coming out of prisons and jails make the transition back into their communities, and support responses to crises like drug overdoses and episodes involving mental illness. These grants build on earlier OJP investments, including more than $1.2 billion to support victim assistance and compensation programs, $187 million under the state formula Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program, more than $175 million in funding for victim services and public safety in American Indian and Alaska Native communities."