Justice Department ramps up efforts to reduce violent crime with gun intel center, carjacking forces

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is stepping up efforts to reduce violent crime in the US, setting up a specialized gun intelligence center in Chicago and expanding task forces to curb carjackings.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said there is “absolutely a lot more to do” to make communities safer, even as many places have experienced a downward trend in crime after a spike in the coronavirus pandemic era.

β€œNo level of violence is acceptable,” Monaco said during a trip to Chicago this week. β€œWe see progress, but we are far from done. We must double down on the strategies that work, using federal resources as force multipliers.”

The initiatives are part of a broad effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to tackle violent crime β€” an issue the Democratic president raised in his reelection campaign to reach young voters concerned about gun violence. Republicans have used the violence in some US cities, including the nation’s capital, to try to portray Democrats as weak on crime.

Last week, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced that it had finalized a new rule requiring thousands of additional firearms dealers to conduct background checks on buyers at gun shows or other places outside of brick-and-mortar stores. Gun rights groups are expected to mount legal challenges.

In Chicago, the Gun Crime Intelligence Center at the city’s ATF office brings together federal agents, state and local police, as well as federal and local prosecutors to share and analyze firearms intelligence to better identify traffickers and the most prolific shooters, they said officials.

It is modeled after dozens of similar centers run by the ATF across the country. The Chicago center will house 65 agents, officers, analysts and prosecutors.

“The goal is to catch more violent people, really violent. And second, to better see if we can prevent them from being armed in the first place,” ATF Director Steve Dettelbach said in an interview. β€œThe first days and hours after an incident are crucial for the investigation. Having everyone together, looking at that data every day and making decisions is a real game changer.”

Chicago is one of the nation’s hot spots for gun violence, even as police data shows a decline in shootings and murders there last year. The announcement comes days after a young girl was killed and 10 other people were injured in a shooting that police said was gang-related on the city’s South Side.

β€œEvery innocent life lost to gun violence is one too many,” Monaco said. “And every shooter who evades justice is one too many.”

Newly released FBI data, based on figures from approximately 80% of US law enforcement agencies, shows that homicides fell by 13% overall and violent crime fell by 6% overall in the last three months of 2023, compared to the same period the year before. The final detailed data for 2023 is expected to be released in the autumn.

Amid a scourge of carjackings across the country, the Justice Department has also created new task forces to combat the issue in an additional seven U.S. attorney’s offices, including the Eastern District of Texas, the Northern District of Alabama and the Northern District of California . The task forces, now located in eleven offices, include federal prosecutors, ATF and FBI agents, and state and local law enforcement.

The goal is to involve federal officials at the outset of carjacking investigations β€” even if the cases are ultimately prosecuted locally β€” to help with tasks such as tracing firearms, conducting forensic analysis or obtaining search warrants and subpoenas.


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