Garland launches gun trafficking strike forces in 5 cities

The effort will intensify enforcement in so-called supply areas – cities and states where it is easier to obtain firearms that are then smuggled elsewhere.

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is launching an effort in five US cities to reduce spiking gun violence by prosecuting illegal trafficking and crimes that help criminals place guns in the hands.

Attorney General Merrick Garland will launch gun trafficking strike forces in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. The effort would include step-up enforcement in so-called supply areas – cities and states where firearms are easy to obtain. Those are later smuggled to other cities with more restrictive gun laws.

Justice Department officials said that in addition to prioritizing gun crimes, the striking forces would share intelligence and prosecute in all jurisdictions. Officers have also added federal agents to the murder units of police departments across America, deploying additional crime analysts and conducting runaway sweeps to arrest people with outstanding state and federal warrants for violent crimes.

Violent crimes, particularly murder and shootings, are rampant in many cities across the country, and the Biden administration has sought to help the communities affected by the violence. But the initiative launched this week differs from other recent federal efforts to address the violence because it is not sending agents or prosecutors to cities with crime spikes. Justice officials say the strikes are indictments targeted at forces as a long-term effort to combat gun trafficking.

There is no federal gun smuggling law, so federal agents often must rely on other methods, such as lying on a firearms purchase form, to prosecute gun smuggling cases or to deter straw buyers, those who are legally involved. buy weapons, then offer them to others who don’t legally have them.

Officials hope the new plan will mean that federal prosecutors in some supply cities will be more likely to bring charges in those cases.

But if the effort sounds familiar, it is. In 2017, Chicago police, federal agents and prosecutors launched a similar initiative – the Chicago Crime Gun Strike Force – to try to stop the flow of illegal firearms into the city and stop rampant gun violence.

The Justice Department said the strike force was formed in response to an increase in firearm violence and continues to work, but that it is focused on reducing violence locally in Chicago, not gun smuggling from other jurisdictions, which Put guns in hand. The same has happened in the case of a similar Gun Task Force, including the criminal New York.

“These previous approaches generally increased resources in specific areas, without a continued focus on smuggling without jurisdiction,” the department said. “Now we are formalizing and standardizing coordination between districts. This strategy focuses on smuggling – keeping firearms out of the hands of those who will pull the trigger.”

Police data released earlier this month showed there were fewer homicides in Chicago in the first six months of 2021 than in the same period last year, but an increase in shootings and people.

While crime is on the rise in many US cities, violent crime overall is lower than it was a decade ago or even five years ago.

Experts say the rise in crime this year defies simple explanations and points to a number of possible causes, including coronavirus pandemic, after months of stay-at-home orders worrying about the economy and large gatherings.

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