Trump says he’s sending ‘federal help’ to stem Chicago violence

CHICAGO — The Trump administration announced Friday they are dispatching an additional 20 ATF agents permanently to the nation’s third largest city in an effort to stem the scourge of gun violence in the city that’s left more than 1,000 dead over the last 18 months.

With the additional agents, the agency presence will increase to about 60 agents from 40 in Chicago. The Justice Department and city also announced they have formed a joint strike force of federal and local law enforcement officials to ramp up prosecution of gun-related crimes.

“The Trump Administration will not let the bloodshed go on; we cannot accept these levels of violence,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The announcement comes after months of President Trump vowing federal intervention to stem the plague of gun violence in Chicago.

“Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!” Trump posted on Twitter ahead of Sessions’ announcement.

Chicago Police officials say the strike force will be a specialized team of city cops, federal agents and Illinois state troopers who will work exclusively on stemming the flow of illegally possessed guns and targeting repeat gun offenders.

The idea of a strike force was developed by ATF Chicago Special-Agent-in-Charge Celinez Nunez after Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson met with Justice Department officials earlier this year in Washington looking for assistance.

Chicago recorded more than 760 murders last year, more than New York and Los Angeles combined.

The first-half of 2017 has been nearly as difficult with the city recording 320 murders and 1360 shooting incidents through Thursday, according to police department data. At the same point last year, the city had tallied 322 murders and 1584 shooting incidents.

Trump has repeatedly railed on Chicago for its handling of the violence, referring to the situation as “horrible carnage” and “out of control.” He’s also previously warned without any specificity that he’d “send in the feds” and “solve the problem for them” if city officials didn’t take action.

Chicago Police officials said a key part of the strike force will be that prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s office and Cook County State’s Attorney’s office would work closely with city police and federal agents on developing a prosecution strategy for targeting repeat gun offenders.

Chicago officials welcomed the creation of the strike force and added ATF agents, but seemed reluctant to credit Trump.

Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro noted that city officials began engaging the Justice Department in the final days of the Obama administration about the possibility of bolstering the ATF’s presence in the city.

City Hall officials said that talks with the Justice Department about adding agents began last summer.

“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,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “If the president was as interested in taking action on public safety as he is in Tweeting about it, we would have seen these resources months ago. “

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