Attorney general talks gang violence in California

Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The Obama administration will make combating gang violence a top priority through initiatives that focus on prevention, education and intervention, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday.

Holder appeared in Sacramento before a group of California mayors, police chiefs and other leaders at a meeting of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network. The group works to form cross-city partnerships and promote state and federal policy changes to reduce gang-related violence and victimization.

Holder said the federal government will be more responsive, creative and willing to take chances when it comes to steering teens away from gangs.

"We need to look at different funding sources and remove some of the restrictions on the way federal funding can be used" at the state level, he said. "We need to make sure we don't stay stuck in silos and old ways of thinking."

For example, he cited a U.S. Department of Justice plan to distribute $5 million in grants over the next few months to programs aimed at reducing childhood exposure to violence. A national survey published by the department last fall found that more than 60 percent of children in the U.S. have been exposed to crime, abuse and violence.

Holder praised the anti-gang efforts of California's law enforcement officers and elected officials, along with those he called "non-traditional crime fighters," such as public health officials, teachers and faith-based organizations.

Holder said the federal government would continue to support both state and federal initiatives. He noted that President Barack Obama's proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $12 million in new funding specifically for gang and youth violence prevention.

He said he hoped the administration's legacy on gang violence would be that it "changed things for the better and left in place organizations that are going to sustain that progress."

Holder's visit came a day after he announced on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their Miranda rights.

He did not take questions from reporters on that or any other topic Monday.

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