The Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) may be back on track after the House subcommittee overseeing the Department of Justice (DOJ) budget voted to de-fund it last spring.
On Tuesday, the Senate subcommittee that proposes Justice Department funding included $20 million for the program, in which the 94 U.S. Attorneys around the nation work with state and local officials to fight violent crime.
Attorney General William Barr had sought $100 million for Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) in the federal budget year that starts next week.
The Crime Report reported in May that members of the House DOJ funding committee, which is run by Democrats this year for the first time since 2011, believed that PSN lacked support compared with other Justice Department-supported anticrime programs.
In June, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, won approval from the full House to overturn the committee vote and keep funding Project Safe Neighborhoods.
“Just last year, the House authorized $50 million to support Project Safe Neighborhoods by a vote of 394 to 13,” said Collins. “Not a single Democrat voted against this measure then. I’m baffled by Democrats’ attempts only one year later to prevent this initiative from receiving even one dollar of funding.”
The decision Tuesday by the Senate panel suggests that Congress will keep the program going, although at a lower level than the one requested by Barr. The DOJ budget is not final until it is approved by Congress.
PSN dates to the presidency of George W. Bush. It continued with little prominence during the Obama administration, but it was highlighted by President Donald Trump’s first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.
The administration’s budget request to Congress said that under PSN,
“grants will be awarded to local law enforcement agencies, outreach and prevention service providers, and researchers to support activities implementing local PSN anti-violence strategies. The PSN strategy focuses on both the eradication of illegal firearms and the interdiction of violent gang activity.”
A Justice Department report in March cited research by Michigan State University finding that PSN had helped reduce violent crime by an average of four to twenty percent, with reductions as high as 42 percent in certain locations.
Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report.