From the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
U.S. Attorney’s Office Provides Update on Federal Prosecutions and Strategies to Combat Violent Crime in Chicago
Federal Firearm Prosecutions in Fiscal Year 2020 Remained Steady Despite Challenges of COVID-19
CHICAGO — John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, today provided an update on federal prosecutions and strategies to combat violent crime in Chicago and the surrounding area.
The centerpiece of the federal fight against violent crime continues to be the revitalized Project Safe Neighborhoods, as well as Project Guardian, which focuses on firearms prosecutions, and Operation Legend, the Department of Justice’s recent initiative to address violent crime in several U.S. cities, including Chicago, which has been facing a significant increase in homicides and shootings.
These initiatives have enabled the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago to sustain significant levels of federal prosecutions of violent offenders despite the recent unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Despite a global health crisis that continues to impact the criminal justice system, our office has maintained or exceeded its recent levels of prosecutions of violent criminals, including trigger-pullers, carjackers, and those who illegally use and possess firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “We are using every available federal law enforcement tool to reduce violent crime in Chicago and hold violent offenders accountable.”
“The number one priority of government is to keep its citizens safe,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Violating federal firearms laws is a serious crime and offenders face serious consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who illegally buy, sell, use, or possess firearms.”
According to preliminary data for the 2020 Fiscal Year, which ended Sept. 30, 2020, 262 defendants were charged with a firearm offense in the Northern District of Illinois.
This number is higher than 14 of the previous 15 years, with the lone exception being 2019, which had 8% more firearm defendants.
The number of firearm defendants in FY20 was 33% higher than 2018, and 48% higher than 2017, according to preliminary data.
These increases were particularly significant considering that, prior to 2019, the 2018 and 2017 fiscal years stood as the two highest years of federal firearm defendants in more than a decade.
The sustained focus on federal prosecution of firearm offenses in the Northern District of Illinois was enhanced by Operation Legend, which launched in Chicago in July.
Under Operation Legend, approximately 176 defendants have been charged with federal offenses impacting violent crime in Chicago, including 130 charged with firearms-related offenses, 40 charged with narcotics-related offenses, and 6 charged with other violent crimes.
Approximately 1,057 defendants have been charged throughout the country under Operation Legend, including 568 with firearms-related offenses, 411 with narcotics-related offenses, and 78 with other violent crimes.
“The number of violent crimes in Chicago remains stubbornly high, including homicides, shootings, and carjackings, and we have seen troubling increases in these areas in 2020,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch.
“Our goal as federal prosecutors is not simply to bring more cases against more defendants, but rather to reduce violent crime, and one way to do that is by continuing to bring quality, impactful cases.
As federal prosecutors, we endeavor to disrupt violent crime by seeking pre-trial detention for defendants who pose a danger to the community, employing federal resources to enhance law enforcement’s efforts to build strong cases, and pursuing appropriate sentences in federal prison to deter dangerous individuals from continuing to wreak havoc in our neighborhoods.”
Nationally, the Department of Justice announced last week that more than 14,200 defendants were charged in federal courts across the country with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year 2020.
“Reducing gun violence requires a coordinated effort, and we could not have charged more than 14,000 individuals with firearms-related crimes without the hard work of the dedicated law enforcement professionals at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and especially all of our state and local law enforcement partners,” said Attorney General Barr.
Through enforcement actions, prosecutions, and community partnerships, the U.S. Attorney’s Office works to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer.
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