President Donald Trump has followed through on an offer he made in January to “send in the Feds” in response to Chicago’s rampant gun violence.
Federal law enforcement officials and the Chicago police confirmed Thursday night that about 20 additional agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are being deployed to Chicago to investigate illegal gun trafficking.
Dubbed the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force, the group consists of ATF agents and counterparts from the Chicago Police Department and Illinois State Police, who will work to investigate shootings and gun traffickers through ballistics technology, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Following the official launch of the task force, Trump tweeted that federal help was needed to combat Chicago “epidemic” level of violence.
Though Chicago is not among the nation’s most violent cities on a per capita basis, Trump has repeatedly singled out the city for its appalling gun violence statistics. In his Friday morning tweet, the president asserted that 1,714 people have been shot in Chicago this year.
Trump’s figure is actually slightly lower than the Sun-Times’ count, which puts the current 2017 total at 1,737, including 306 people who have died. (RELATED: Chicago Celebrates Father’s Day With More Than 50 People Shot)
Though Chicago police and federal agents have long cooperated on gun investigations, the new task force plans to employ additional technology and rapid response capabilities to shooting scenes. A specially-equipped mobile van that can process bullets and shell casings will help the task force investigators build cases against shooters and gun dealers, ATF spokesman Dave Coulson told the Sun-Tmes.
“We’ve been doing this all along but now it’s being amped up,” he said. “It’s a more concerted effort.”
Additional federal support to Chicago has been in the works for several months, according to police officials. CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson traveled to Washington in March for a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who committed to the creation of the federal task force.
Sessions has faced criticism for not including Chicago on a list of cities that will receive guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) about long-term strategies to fight violence. However, DOJ already coordinates with the city under a program called the Violence Reduction Network, which began in 2014.
The pace of murders in Chicago is on track with figures from last year, which was the city’s deadliest in two decades. There were 320 murders in Chicago through Thursday, according to the Sun-Times, slightly fewer than the 322 over the same time period in 2016.
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