CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police, federal agents and prosecutors are launching a new initiative Friday to stem the flow of illegal firearms in the city as part of efforts to curb rampant gun violence that President Donald Trump says is at “epidemic proportions.”
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Trump’s remark on Twitter came ahead of an announcement by Chicago police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about the formation of the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office acknowledged that an additional 20 ATF agents have been sent to Chicago.
State police, intelligence analysts and state and federal prosecutors will target illegal guns and repeat gun offenders, Chicago police said. Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement Thursday night that “we are foundationally changing the way we fight crime in Chicago.”
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Trump tweeted Friday morning that “Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help.” In January, he warned Chicago about its high number of homicides, saying on Twitter that he is ready to “send in the Feds.”
Adam Collins, spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said the city wants federal help.
“Six months ago we made it clear that we would welcome additional federal support, and six months later we appreciate the 20 new ATF agents that are now arriving,” Collins said in an email. But as the police department released figures that show the number of homicides, shooting incidents and shooting victims has dropped, Collins said “the progress CPD has made this year has happened without any of the new resources from the federal government we requested.”
In fact, earlier this week, officials announced that the ATF had loaned the city a van outfitted with ballistic testing equipment to help police more quickly solve gun crimes.
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Trump’s latest tweet said there have been 1,714 shootings in Chicago this year. According to the police department, there have been 1,703 shooting victims. There were 1,935 shooting victims in the city during the same period last year. Also, there have been 1,360 shooting incidents so far this year — 224 less than were reported during the same period in 2016. So far this year, there have been 320 homicides compared to 322 by this time last year, according to the police department.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking Friday on the Fox News Channel’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” said the Justice Department is “sending in additional gun investigators” to Chicago and that he has urged the U.S. attorney’s office to prosecute gun cases aggressively.
“The police have been demoralized in many ways,” he said. “In many ways, the policies in Chicago have not been working. Murders are way, way too high. It is critical for the people of Chicago’s public safety that we begin to work together here and deport violent criminals that have been convicted. They need to not be a sanctuary city, they need to be protecting the people of Chicago from violent criminals.”
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement late Thursday that federal and Cook County prosecutors plan to develop new strategies to prosecute gun crimes and offenders.
On Friday, Sessions said the Justice Department will send more federal prosecutors to “prioritize prosecutions to reduce gun violence.”
Sessions last week pledged federal assistance to 12 cities to help them develop individualized, long-term strategies to fight violence. But Chicago was not among them.
The Justice Department said that’s because Chicago was already part of a similar Justice Department program called the Violence Reduction Network, which began in 2014. Under that initiative, federal agents teamed up with their local counterparts to share resources and intelligence.
The Justice Department spokesman said the department will keep working with cities including Chicago under the new crime-fighting program, called the Public Safety Partnership. And he noted that dozens of additional ATF agents had “surged” into Chicago so far this year.
Associated Press writers David Runk in Detroit and Sadie Gurman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.