Local law enforcement is typically left to America’s states and cities, but as Chicago tackles its gang violence pandemic, the U.S. government has decided to step in — with cash.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement in Chicago on Nov. 25, at the swearing-in ceremony for the Northern District of Illinois’ new U.S. attorney.
“In the coming year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will send a new special agent in charge and new senior managers to the field division right here in Chicago,” Holder said at the Monday night ceremony attended by several local politicians, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk.
Holder also pledged resources to the Chicago Police Department from the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. The money is from seized and forfeited assets that resulted from, or were used to, commit federal crimes, such as drug trafficking and money laundering.
The money is then repurposed to promote public safety and security. Chicago will get money for additional police officers on the streets, Holder said.
Durbin and Kirk welcomed Holder’s announcement. Durbin, a Democrat, said he and Kirk, a Republican, are working closely to address Chicago’s gang violence problem. It’s an issue that factored heavily into their selection of Zachary Fardon, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago. Fardon gained prominence after successfully trying former Illinois Governor George Ryan for corruption in 2006.
“Because of the level of violence and killing in the Chicago area, we wanted him to pay special attention in the U.S. attorney’s office to address this violence,” Durbin said. Details such as how much money will be sent to Chicago or any restrictions on its use are not yet available.
Chicago’s 2013 murder count is down 20 percent from 2012, according to the Chicago Police Department, with 377 murders recorded as of Nov. 25, compared with 472 during the same period in 2012. With more than 500 homicides recorded that year, Chicago surpassed every other American city in its murder count and became the focus of national attention.