Amid an escalating number of shootings nationwide, President Joe Biden announced a major plan to attack that surge, and the White House says that the city of Chicago will play a prominent role in the new campaign.
Biden, joined by Attorney General Merrick Garland, made the announcement of the new initiative Wednesday during a press conference, saying that his administration hopes to give cities like Chicago new tools to crack down on criminals and to stop the flow of illegal guns into their communities.
According to the Chicago Police Department, shootings in Chicago are up this year. There have been 1,402 shootings reported, a 15% increase over last year, and 1,715 people have been shot, an 18% increase.
Summer is traditionally Chicago’s most violent time of the year, and Ald. Sophia King held a public safety meeting in the city’s South Loop, aiming to give answers to residents who are uneasy about the rising number of shootings in the city.
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“People just want to feel safe in their homes. They want to know police are doing their jobs, and that prosecutors are able to prosecute,” Rob Hard, chairman of the South Loop Advisory Council, said.
Biden and Garland announced a series of initiatives, largely funded by the coronavirus recovery bill passed earlier this year, to help combat violence, including a renewed crackdown on illegal guns.
“90% of illegal guns found at crime scenes were sold by 5% of gun dealers,” Biden said.
The federal government will deploy a group of so-called “strike forces” to major cities, aiming to increase enforcement on those gun dealers, and to try to cut down on illegal gun trafficking.
“Folks, this shouldn’t be a red or a blue issue. It’s an American issue,” Biden said.
More funding for law enforcement was included in the proposal, along with enhanced technological cooperation between local police and the FBI. Biden also promised that community-based anti-violence programs would be part of the plan, and cited Chicago programs as examples of what he intends to promote.
“A study found that a program offering high school students in Chicago a good summer job, and an adult mentor and behavioral therapy, led to a 45% drop in violence,” the president said.
Chicago officials will work with the White House to track the progress of the program, according to the White House.