Senator Kirk Asks ATF to Appoint Illinois Anti-Gang Coordinator
Calls for Federal Assistance to Target Illinois Gangs; Highlights Bipartisan Senate Effort to Target Dangerous Drug Gangs
CHICAGO – Following his effort to secure millions in additional dollars for national anti-gang efforts, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today called on the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to appoint a Chicago-based anti-gang coordinator for Illinois. In a letter to recently appointed ATF Director Todd Jones, Senator Kirk highlighted the need for an Illinois specific anti-gang strategy.
“The federal government does not give illegal guns and violent criminal gangs the attention they deserve,” Senator Kirk said. “Illinois leads the nation in per-capita gang members. That is why I fought for additional federal resources to combat the Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings and other ‘Gangs of National Significance’ that are destroying our communities. I hope Congress quickly passes this legislation so we can increase our anti-gang efforts, with the ATF taking a leading role. As the primary law enforcement agency for attacking violent gun crimes, the ATF is a logical choice to coordinate with federal, state and local anti-gang efforts.”
In July, Senator Kirk‘s initiative to curb gang violence was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.
If enacted, the legislation would provide $19.5 million for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and its law enforcement agencies with directives to locate, arrest, prosecute and convict members of “Gangs of National Significance."
As part of that effort, $7.52 million in new funding would be directed toward the U.S. Marshals Service to operate anti-gang investigate units to increase law enforcement’s ability to identify, locate and arrest violent gang fugitives, and increase the Marshals Services’ anti-gang training and operations. The U.S. Marshals Service Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force is based in Illinois, with a variety of local law enforcement agencies participating. The DuPage County Sheriff currently has two deputies detailed to the task force.
An additional $12 million would be provided to the Violent Gang and Gun Crime Reduction Grant Program, which is also known as Project Safe Neighborhoods. This effort would more than double the current funding for the anti-gang effort spearheaded by local United States Attorneys.
Project Safe Neighborhoods Chicago has used part of its anti-gang federal funds to prosecute violent gun crimes, including the March 2012 conviction of Richard Brito. Brito, a member of the Latin Kings street gang with prior convictions for murder and aggravated battery, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison after police responded to a complaint of a man armed with a gun in the 2800 block of South Millard in Chicago. Officers found Brito with a loaded .45 caliber handgun.
The legislation would also direct $100 million in additional funding to the ATF, so that the agency can employ 160 more agents and enhance enforcement of firearms laws. More information on the Senate's CJS funding bill can be found here.
Federal resources can make a huge difference in gang enforcement. The Waukegan Police Department used more than $800 thousand secured by Sen. Kirk over three years to make 871 arrests, seize 146 guns and confiscate thousands of drugs.
Senator Kirk was joined by Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, Kendall County Sheriff Richard Randall, DuPage County Sheriff Chief of the Law Enforcement Bureau Alan Angus, DuPage County Sheriff Detective Divisions Commander Lieutenant Frank Bibbiano and Waukegan Police Department Deputy Chief Mark McCormick.
For the full text of Senator Kirk's letter to ATF Director Jones, click here.