(STL.News) – United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen announced today his office’s plan to make available $178,759 in grant funds to help improve offender intervention and rehabilitation efforts in three areas of the Western District of Virginia. The grant money is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods [PSN] a nationwide program designed to create and foster safer neighborhoods through a sustained reduction in violent crime by, among other means, addressing criminal gangs and the illegal use of firearms. More information regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office PSN program, the available grant funds, and the grant-application process can be found at www.vachiefs.org/psn-wdva.
“Community-focused prevention, outreach, and rehabilitation efforts play an important role in reducing violent crime and gang-related activity,” U.S. Attorney Cullen stated today. “I am excited that my friend and former U.S. Attorney Tim Heaphy has agreed to oversee our grant-selection process and am confident that he will deploy these resources wisely.”
The PSN Grant Program is eligible to nonprofits, community organizations and services providers, faith-based groups, and units of local or state governments that operate or have the ability to serve one of the three PSN target enforcement areas for the Western District of Virginia- the City of Danville, the City of Lynchburg, and the Roanoke County/Roanoke City region.
In recent years, violent crime has risen in Roanoke, Danville, and Lynchburg. For example, in 2016 the homicide rate in Danville spiked from an average of four murders per year to 16 total. Per capita, this homicide rate exceeded that of major Virginia urban areas like Richmond and Hampton Roads. Intelligence and evidence attributes this violence to increased street gang activity, which is consistent with statewide crime trends.
In response, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia implemented PSN. Called Project Community Justice, the backbone of PSN is the collaboration of community organizations as well as federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies to build evidence-based and intelligence-led approaches to identifying the most violent gangs and offenders in each community and deploying their combined resources not only to prevent violent crimes but also, through offender intervention and rehabilitation efforts, to help break the cycle of violence by addressing its underlying causes. The Grants Program is just one component of multiple concerted efforts the U.S. Attorney’s Office has implemented in Danville, Roanoke, and Lynchburg.
The United States Attorney’s Office recognizes that local government leaders, social service providers, neighborhood leaders, and members of the faith community are an essential part of a successful PSN program, especially those focused on at-risk youth and gang intervention efforts, and hopes that the available grant funds will enable local entities and nonprofits to further their missions of crime prevention and offender intervention and rehabilitation.
Under the program, $178,759 is available to eligible entities in the Western District of Virginia. Those funds will be divided between Danville, Roanoke, and Lynchburg.
In order to administer its PSN grant funds, the United States Attorney’s Office has selected community members to serve as members of an independent Grants Committee. The Committee is chaired by Timothy J. Heaphy, a former United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia and the current General Counsel for the University of Virginia, and is composed of community-outreach experts, grant experts, community leaders, and former law-enforcement personnel. None of the members are current federal employees, and no member will be eligible to apply for or receive PSN funding. This Grants Committee has selected the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Foundation, Inc. (VACP) to serve as its Fiscal Agent for these funds.