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Breaking news Merrick Garland heads to Chicago to tackle spike in gun violence

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“We are redoubling our efforts as the ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes,” Garland said in a statement. “These strike forces allow for sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.”

The anti-violence effort is also politically important to President Joe Biden and White House officials, who fear that the remarks by liberal activists about “funding the police” could give the impression that the administration does little to quell deadly violence. .

Justice Department officials who briefed reporters on the administration’s plans on Wednesday said they were keenly aware that – despite more than a decade of announcements of new federal strategies, projects, operations and task forces – the rate of shootings remains stubbornly high. And while officials haven’t ruled out increasing staff or resources in Chicago and other cities with major gun violence issues, they say a new approach will be needed to achieve better results.

“The goal of this coordination effort is to disrupt the entire trafficking network, from where the firearms originate, where they pass through other jurisdictions, to where they ultimately end up. used to commit violent crimes, “said a DOJ official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This is not a short-term injection of resources. Rather, it is a long-term, coordinated multi-jurisdictional strategy to ensure that disrupting these trafficking patterns remains a priority for as long as necessary to resolve the problem.

An official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that in the past, prosecutors in “source” jurisdictions were sometimes reluctant to bring criminal charges based on false statements or omissions in documents relating to the crime. purchase of firearms, even if those weapons ended up at crime scenes hundreds or thousands of miles away. The new effort aims to formalize the connections between “source” and “market” jurisdictions to ensure that disrupting the flow of firearms to places like Chicago remains a high priority.

“In this source area, a prosecutor can rule out this type of violation as a paperwork violation because he does not feel the effects,” said the ATF official, who also declined to be named. .

Last month, Garland announced the plan for strike forces in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. He is expected to visit ATF headquarters on Thursday before heading to Chicago to meet with city police officials. Garland is expected to spend time with federal law enforcement and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Friday.

The main areas of origin for weapons used in Chicago crimes are typically northern Illinois and Indiana, the justice official who briefed reporters said. Major cities in California are seeing an influx from Arizona and Nevada, as guns arrive in Washington from top to bottom of the East Coast, the official added.

The idea of ​​dedicated gun task forces and the idea of ​​reducing violence by prosecuting gun buyers are far from new.

In 2014, the ATF set up a Chicago Crime Gun Intelligence Center to coordinate with state and local police.

And in March 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent federal prosecutors across the country a directive to prioritize so-called “lie and try” cases. The ministry then reported an increase in the number of prosecutions for lying when performing background checks on firearms purchases. shapes.

Last summer, then-Attorney General William Barr dragged Chicago into a violent crime-fighting effort called Operation Legend. He later attributed to the program a drop in homicides in the city.

Still, Chicago ended with about 770 murders for the year, the highest number since 2016. About 410 homicides have been reported this year.

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