The Biden Justice Department deployed gun trafficking “strike forces” to Washington and four other major cities this week as part of a push to combat a recent national surge in violent crime.
Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Chicago on Thursday to launch that city’s administration-backed strike force. Units will also be set up in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Leveraging existing resources, the regional strike forces will better ensure sustained and focused coordination across jurisdictions and help stem the supply of illegally trafficked firearms from source cities, through other communities, and into five key market regions,” the department said in a press release.
The forces are part of President Biden’s Violent Crime Reduction Initiative announced in May in response to an uptick in violent crimes across the country, particularly shootings and homicides.
More than 550 people across the country were reportedly shot this month during the Fourth of July weekend. Additionally, homicides are up in at least 38 large cities in the first three months of this year compared to the same time in 2020, according to a recent report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Officials say regional U.S. attorneys will lead the task forces, which include officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), as well as state and local law enforcement agencies.
Teams will prioritize sharing information and coordinating prosecution of gun offenses across multiple jurisdictions.
Patterns, leads and potential suspects will be generated using what officials say is the “latest data, evidence, and intelligence from crime scenes.”
“All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away,” Mr. Garland said in a statement. “We are redoubling our efforts as ATF works with law enforcement to track the movement of illegal firearms used in violent crimes.”
Looking ahead, he says the strike forces will “enable sustained coordination across multiple jurisdictions to help disrupt the worst gun trafficking corridors.”
Anti-gun trafficking activities will be orchestrated across a broader area for a longer time frame than similar efforts previously implemented in cities like Chicago and New York, officials say.
“These previous approaches generally surged resources to specific areas, without a sustained focus on cross-jurisdictional trafficking,” the department said. “Now we are formalizing and standardizing coordination between districts. This strategy is focused on trafficking — keeping firearms out of the hands of those who will pull the trigger.”
Justice Department leaders say they are also performing fugitive sweeps and adding crime analysts. Additionally, federal agents are being sent to assist in homicide units at local police departments.
“The Department of Justice will use all of its tools — enforcement, prevention, intervention, and investment — to help ensure the safety of our communities — the department’s highest priority,” Mr. Garland said.
The attorney general is scheduled to meet with Illinois-based Justice Department officials on Friday.