Attorney Generals Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues Meets in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Discuss Crime Reduction Strategies in Indian Country

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The Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues (NAIS) met in Tulsa, Oklahoma from August 13-15 to discuss crime reduction strategies in Indian Country, the Department of Justice announced today.  U.S. Attorney Trent S. Shores the Northern District of Oklahoma, who also serves as Chairman of the NAIS, and Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation James Floyd gave remarks.  On Tuesday, August 14, the NAIS visited and met with the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.   

Fighting violent crime and combating the drug epidemic are two of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s top priorities.  The Department is actively addressing violence against women and children in Indian country through partnerships with federal, tribal, state, and local law enforcement, investigating and prosecuting crimes, grant programs, training and technical assistance, and information sharing with tribes.  

Earlier this month, the Department announced the expansion of the Tribal Access Program (TAP), which provides federally recognized tribes with the ability to access and exchange data with the national crime information databases for both civil and criminal purposes.  The Department is accepting new applications for this program until October 1, 2018.  Interested tribes may apply by using this link: www.justice.gov/tribal/tribal-access-program-fy-2019-application.

Through TAP, tribes may enter information directly into federal databases.  So far, tribes have contributed nearly 600 sex offender registrations and over 550 sex offender check-ins; nearly 300 instances of data entry that would prohibit someone from being able to purchase a firearm; over 1,000 orders of protection entered or modified; and over 4,200 finger-print based record checks for civil purposes that include employment, tribal housing placement, and personnel/volunteers who have regular contact with or control over Indian children.

American Indian and Alaska Native people suffer from high rates of victimization in our nation.  Crimes range from domestic violence to sexual assault and to those devastated by the drug trade and the opioid epidemic.  In June, the Department announced it had set aside $110 million in a program to provide assistance to crime victims in tribal communities.  The FY 2018 Tribal Victim Services Set-Aside Program can be used to provide a wide range of victims’ services for victims of human trafficking, crime victimization related to the opioid and drug crisis, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, homicide, and assault, among other crimes.

U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and law enforcement components are responsible for investigations, prosecutions, and victim services in the 49 judicial districts across the nation that include Indian country.  Federal prosecutors have primary criminal jurisdiction for 70 million acres of Indian lands.  That spans across about 200 Indian country territories.  Our law enforcement work requires strong partnerships with tribal law enforcement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and state and local law enforcement.  

Approximately 85 percent of the Department’s pending Indian country investigations relate to violent crime.  The most investigated crimes include child sexual abuse, violent assaults, and adult sexual assaults, followed by homicide, other forms of child abuse, drug, and property crimes.  Native women and girls suffer a high rate of violence, including murder.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that American Indian and Alaska Native women experienced some of the highest rates of homicide based on an analysis from 18 states.

The Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has funded Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys (SAUSAs) to enhance prosecution of Indian country cases and strengthen relationships and cooperation between federal and tribal law enforcement.  OVW’s Tribal Governments Program enhances the ability of tribes to respond to violent crimes against Indian women, improve victim safety, and develop education and prevention strategies.  In fiscal year 2018, OVW funds for tribal governments and tribal nonprofits totaled nearly $56 million. 

The Department’s Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) has released the FY2018 Supporting Innovation: Field Initiated solicitation that focuses on several priorities including addressing innovative approaches to crime including violent crime associated with tribes and tribal members.   BJA anticipates that it will be supporting a range of strategies including assistance for tribal prosecutors to prosecute violent crimes such as murder and crime associated guns, gangs and drug activity as well as training for tribes on violent crime and prosecuting violent crimes.   In fiscal year 2018, BJA funds for tribal governments and tribal partners will total over $35 million dollars.  

Native American communities have been hit particularly hard by the Opioid and drug epidemic.  According to the CDC, American Indian and Alaska Native people had the highest drug overdose death rate in 2015.  In 2017, the Department awarded nearly $59 million in tribal grants to strengthen drug court programs.  The Bureau of Justice Assistance runs the Department’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program, which aims to reduce opioid misuse and the number of overdose deaths. The program uses prescription drug monitoring to prevent the misuse and diversion of controlled substances.

Through its National Indian Country Training Program, the Department trains investigators and assists in the cross-deputization of tribal law enforcement.  Better investigations lead to better cases, more prosecutions, and more convictions, all of which increase public safety and confidence in law enforcement.

The NAIS is made up of U.S. Attorneys from across the United States whose districts contain Indian country or one or more federally recognized tribes.  The NAIS focuses exclusively on Indian country issues, both criminal and civil, and is responsible for making policy recommendations to the Attorney General regarding public safety and legal issues that affect tribal communities.    

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