CHICAGO (CBS) — Officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have announced concrete steps to fight illegal gun trafficking – which is a principal focus in efforts to reduce violent crime in Chicago.
In May, the DOJ announced a comprehensive strategy for reducing violent crime – supporting local communities and working together with law enforcement at all levels to prevent, investigate, and prosecute gun violence and other violent crime.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco emphasized at that time that gun traffickers would be a top priority.
The DOJ and the ATF have now announced concrete steps to fight gun trafficking. The DOJ said it will launch five firearms trafficking strike forces to disrupt gun trafficking along specific corridors.
The goal is to disrupt the entire gun trafficking network throughout the country.
The DOJ said while the ATF and federal prosecutors have prioritized gun trafficking before, this effort is new in that it establishes a cross-jurisdictional coordination between law enforcement agencies in the source areas for the trafficked guns, and in the places where those guns end up – and end up being used in crimes.
The strike forces will be supplemented by other efforts to reduce violent crime. The DOJ noted that its law enforcement components such as the U.S. Marshals have been working with state and local authorities to conduct sweeps around the country wanted for violent crimes – including homicide, aggravated battery, robbery with a gun, rape, or aggravated sexual assault – since May 31.
Already, more than 700 fugitives have been arrested, 361 of whom were wanted for murder, authorities said.
The FBI is also supplying analysts and resources to support law enforcement in cities that are seeing a major rise in homicides and violent attacks. The FBI is also creating new deployment teams to staff places hit hardest by violent crime, while ATF and Task Force officers have been embedded with 45 local police homicide units to coordinate efforts and provide additional resources.
The Drug Enforcement Agency is also coordinating with state, local, and tribal law enforcement across the country to disrupt the activities of the most violent drug trafficking gangs, the DOJ said.
The DOJ is also taking regulatory steps – including proposing a rule that would help curb the proliferation of ghost guns – which are often built at home from kits and are unregulated and untraceable. The DOJ is further proposing model state legislation to allow courts to prevent people in crisis temporarily from accessing a gun, among other initiatives.
The ATF explained how guns are trafficked. They can be stolen from federally-licensed gun stores, but also from cars and residences.
Last week, police Supt. David Brown met with President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland – along with several other local law enforcement officials from around the country – to talk about the new federal approach to crime.
The summer of 2021 is not the most violent summer in Chicago over the past decade – but it is the most deadly.
CBS 2 dug into crime stats from the start of June through the 4th of July for each of the last 10 years, and we found 2021 has seen the most homicides – with 96 over this first stretch of summer.
And when police retrieve guns committed in crimes in Chicago, it is often from Indiana or the Deep South.
“That pipeline up I-65 is going to be critically important – so Gary, Indianapolis, and beyond,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week. “Making sure that the U.S. Attorneys, ATF, and other federal resources are really focused on stopping gun trafficking will make a world of difference here in the city.”
This week, Chicago Police announced a new investigations team that will go after gun traffickers. The team will work with the State’s Attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office to bring state and local charges.
The goal, Supt. Brown said, is to get to the third parties – the people who are buying guns for violent people.
“Whoever these third parties are, we’re coming for you to charge you,” Brown said this week.
Brown said the new CPD team is not trying to replace anything the ATF is doing, but rather looking to complement their work and work together.
He said everyone shares the goal of making our city and country safer.