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Trump Says Chicago Crime and Killings Have Reached 'Epidemic Proportions'

By Heather Cherone | June 30, 2017 7:26am | Updated on June 30, 2017 9:40am
 President Donald Trump can be seen in this file photo.
President Donald Trump can be seen in this file photo.
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CHICAGO — President Donald Trump declared on Twitter early Friday morning that crime in Chicago had reached "epidemic proportions," part of a coordinated announcement by state, local and federal law enforcement officials that 20 new federal agents had been assigned to Chicago to track gun crimes.

Chicago Police Department officials announced the permanent expansion of the Chicago bureau of the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Friday afternoon.

DNAinfo has tracked 1,373 shootings in Chicago as of Friday, and 332 murders.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement "the Trump Administration will not let the bloodshed go on; we cannot accept these levels of violence."

Sessions again criticized Chicago for declaring itself a "sanctuary city" and refusing to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

"So-called 'sanctuary' policies tie the hands of law enforcement by rejecting common sense and undermining federal laws that would remove criminal, illegal aliens from the streets and remove them from this country," Sessions said.

In addition, Session said the Trump administration was "anxious" to improve the morale of the Chicago Police officers.

"The most critical factor to our success is the strength, training, and morale of the Chicago Police Department and all of our law enforcement partners," Sessions said.

The city first requested the additional ATF agents from the Obama administration, City Hall sources said.

Six months ago, Trump threatened to "send in the feds" to combat gun and gang violence in Chicago.

"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," Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said in a statement. "But the progress CPD has made this year has happened without any of the new resources from the federal government we requested."

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin praised the president's action but said he must do more.

The newly created Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force — made up of Chicago Police, federal agents, state troopers and intelligence analysts as well state and federal prosecutors — "will work exclusively on stemming the flow of illegal guns throughout Chicago and the targeted enforcement of repeat gun offenders," Guglielmi said.

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Supt. Eddie Johnson said the strike force would reshape the way Chicago fights gun crime.

"More than just a new strategy or tactic, we are foundationally changing the way we fight crime in Chicago," Johnson said. "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 disproportionally drive violence in our city."

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The additional agents follow the announcement Monday that the ATF had deployed a high-tech van in Chicago that can immediately test guns and shell casings at crime scenes throughout the city.

The van first hit Chicago's streets three weeks ago, and is scheduled to remain in the city until the end of July — but local officials including Emanuel said they would ask Sessions to allow the van to stay until Labor Day.

The van feeds evidence collected at the scene into a national database and can produce results within hours as compared with the days it would take the Police Department to find a match, officials said.

The new Chicago agents will use the bureau's gun tracking technology to solve crimes and track illegal weapons, officials said.

There have been 1,373 shootings this year as of Friday morning, a 12.9 percent drop from the same period in 2016. Despite the drop in shootings, the number of murders has remained relatively the same compared to last year.

The number of shootings in May dropped about 19 percent from May 2016, and murders were down 15 percent, according to DNAinfo data.

But violence in the city has remained higher throughout 2017 than it was in years past, and there have been about as many people killed in shootings this year as in 2016.

Trump has repeatedly criticized violence in Chicago, asking at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 21: "Look at Chicago. What the hell is going on in Chicago? What's that all about?" Trump said.

Trump's question — which he has asked in some form nearly a dozen times since taking office — prompted many to post sarcastic responses on Twitter, noting that summer is in full swing in Chicago.

In response to Trump's taunts and tweets, Emanuel repeatedly asked for more federal agents to combat crime in violence-plagued neighborhoods, after-school help for Chicago's kids and renovating mass transit that runs through the South and West sides.