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.
Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2017
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 308 murders and 1322 shooting incidents through Sunday, according to police department data. At the same point last year, the city had tallied 311 murders and 1533 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 Police First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro said 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.
"This new strike force will significantly help our police officers stem the flow of illegal guns and create a culture of accountability for the small subset of individuals and gangs who disproportionately drive violence in our city," Johnson said in a statement.
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