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The Department of Justice on Tuesday announced that officials have charged and convicted dozens of offenders for gun crimes in Chicago as part of President Biden’s 2021 “strike force” initiative.
The DOJ also said “a significant number” of guns recovered in Chicago are illegally trafficked from outside the Windy City.
“Whether individuals are trafficking guns from Wisconsin into Chicago or sending guns from other states into places like Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha, we are fully committed to working with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners to hold firearms traffickers and straw purchasers fully accountable,” Eastern District of Wisconsin U.S. Attorney Richard G. Frohling said in a Tuesday statement.
Biden launched the initiative last summer in an effort to help curb violet crime and gun trafficking in Chicago, which recorded a 25-year-high in homicides last year, as well as in other major U.S. cities.
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Since then, local and federal officials in Illinois and Wisconsin have arrested several dozen individuals accused or convicted of trafficking firearms into Chicago, according to a press release.
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In one example, authorities charged 38-year-old Arshad Zayed of Orland Hills, Illinois, with illegally selling firearms, including “ghost guns” and machine guns, in Chicago. Many of his illegal transactions occurred at a car wash, according to the DOJ. In another, an Illinois judge sentenced suburban Chicago man John Phillips to 8-and-a-half years in prison for trafficking guns from Kentucky to Chicago — many of which law enforcement officers discovered at crime scenes in Chicago.
In the Northern District of Indiana, officials charged 24 people with straw-purchasing of more than 150 firearms and lying about their eligibility to buy 100 firearms. In the Southern District of Indiana, six people were charged with straw-purchasing 90 firearms. Dozens of the guns that these suspects straw-purchased were recovered at crime scenes in Chicago.
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In July, an Indiana man pleaded guilty to straw-purchasing a gun for an Illinois man who was later accused of fatally shooting Chicago officer Ella French on Aug. 7, 2021. Two brothers, 22-year-old Eric Morgan and 21-year-old Monty “Emonte” Morgan, are accused of fatally shooting French, who was 29 at the time of her death, while she was conducting a traffic stop in August 2021.
“Firearms traffickers and straw purchasers enable violence,” Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney Lausch said in a Tuesday statement. “Over the past year, the cross-jurisdictional strike force has increased collaboration with our law enforcement partners and enhanced our longstanding efforts to hold accountable individuals or groups who illegally traffic firearms into Chicago.”
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The U.S. Attorney’s Offices also announced that they are seeking pre-trial detentions for defendants who pose threats to their communities.
“A primary goal of our office is to reduce violent crime, and we will continue to use every available federal law enforcement tool to keep people safe,” Lausch continued.
In Chicago so far this year, citywide murders are down 18%, with 425 recorded so far this year for the week ending Aug. 22 compared to 519 at the same time last year. Shooting incidents are also down 18%, with 1,828 recorded this year compared to 2,239 recorded at this time in 2021. Total violent crime categories in Chicago have generally increased in 2022 compared to 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018, according to the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics.