SHSU chosen to help combat gun violence

As part of a nationwide crackdown on gun violence, SHSU has been chosen along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District to administer $1.3 million to combat gun violence.The Project Safe Neighborhood Grant is a federal endowment provided by the U.S. Department of Justice to be given to agencies and organizations committed to reducing gun violence. Spearheaded by President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft, the project was approved by Congress last year and is dedicated to reducing firearm-related crimes across the country.Despite a decrease in gun violence in the last decade, there are still more than 15,000 people murdered each year due to firearms, more than two-thirds at the hands of armed criminals. Along with that figure, the number of non-fatal shootings is nearly three times larger.The SHSU College of Criminal Justice will be in charge of dispersing the funds to six programs in the Southern Texas area, including the Houston area, Harris County and Laredo.Assistant professor of criminal justice Carrie Harter is in charge of evaluating the program. Harter said she lobbied for Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Bradley, the project coordinator, to allow SHSU to administer the program because on the College of Criminal Justice’s past involvement in similar financial distribution responsibilities.”Sam Houston is held in high regard with many people, and I suggested that our university be considered because of the resources and capacities we have to work with the grant,” Harter said.The organizations and programs receiving the funds have been selected by a state advisory committee based on their work to reduce gun violence, and SHSU along with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office will be in charge of distributing the funds.”We’re not making any decision on where the money goes,” Harter said. “We’re acting as fiscal agent for the advisory board.”SHSU will be receiving $127,662 for its services, or one-tenth of the total grant. Harter said the money would go toward the cost of administering the grant. Harter also received a $150,000 research analysis grant from the Department of Justice for being the primary investigator for the southern district of Texas. Both grants will then be administered to the school over the course of three years.Harter said the fact that SHSU has been chosen speaks a great deal about the university.”It think it says a lot about our relationship with the U.S. Attorney Office and the reputation of Sam Houston,” she said.Kristi Kreier, the director of budget and finance for Criminal Justice, said the $127,662 would go toward an accounting clerk who will be in charge of the actual financial responsibilities of distributing the grant.”It’s a three year commitment, and that will go toward salary and benefits for the employee,” Kreier said.Kreier said the College of Criminal Justice is very excited about the project.”It’s very worthwhile,” she said. “”We’re excited to be a part of it.”Project Safe Neighborhoods seeks to decrease the amount of gun violence in the country by increasing coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement, with emphasis on tactical intelligence, more aggressive prosecutions and enhanced accountability through performance measures.Programs in the Houston area that will receive the grant include the Houston Police Department, which will input fired cartridge casings into a database to track and link gun related incidents as well as have funds for a team to investigate gun-related crimes; the Harris Country Juvenile Probation Department, which will receive financial support for Operation Spotlight, a program that provides intensive supervision and social services to juvenile probationers and their families; and the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task, which will focus on violent offenders wanted for gun-related crimes.

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