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Strike Force Is Created To Combat Chicago Gun Violence


More than 1,700 people have been shot in Chicago or harmed in acts of violence there this year. More than 300 people have died. The city's homicide crisis continues. And President Trump tweeted that, quote, "killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in federal help." The attorney general announced a Chicago gun strike force of more than 20 Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents will be sent to the city, where they'll prosecute gun crimes and work with local police and prosecutors.

We're joined now by Carol Marin, political editor at NBC5 in Chicago. She's also on WTTW. Carol, thanks so much for being with us.

CAROL MARIN: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Are Chicago officials eager to see this strike force?

MARIN: They're willing to see the strike force. Nobody objects to having more manpower. But I hasten to say 20 ATF agents does not an army make. And therein is part of the problem.

SIMON: Any idea what they would do in particular?

MARIN: They have a certain expertise in ballistics. There is some new technology. There will be an attempt to trace the kinds of bullets to figure out, who are the trigger people? - the most common trigger people - and try to get them off of the streets. Chicago police have actually been doing a very good job of this recently with this technology prior to the president announcing the feds coming in.

But in terms of federal assistance, Scott, under the Obama administration, during the shooting of the Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old who was shot 16 times, there was a scathing Justice Department report that said the Chicago Police Department needed, among many other things, significant and holistic reform. The feds are not coming in to do that. So this is functionally a Band-Aid - not an unwelcome Band-Aid but merely a Band-Aid.

SIMON: Carol, I realize that there are no definitive answers to this. But the homicide rate seems to be matching up with last year's homicide rate. And this, of course, is after a lot of attention, a lot of focus, a lot of energy and effort by police and others. Why does this scourge of shooting continue?

MARIN: It continues, Scott, in select parts of the city. There are plenty of people in Chicago who don't witness or hear or notice these killings - these terrible killings. But in the city's poorest neighborhoods, in its brownest and blackest neighborhoods, this happens. And so there is such a larger conversation to be had.

And at the same time, the police are viewed by some of the residents there as more of an invading force than a helping force because there is such long-held distrust. This is no easy problem and has no easy solution but certainly cries out for something more comprehensive than what we have yet seen.

SIMON: Carol Marin in Chicago, thanks so much for being with us.

MARIN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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