CHICAGO - President Joe Biden's "strike force," meant to help curb crime in Chicago and four other cities seeing a surge in violence, is expected to come to the Windy City "relatively soon," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier this week.
The Justice Department announced new "strike forces" in June, which are supposed to curb violent crime in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., by helping city leaders crack down on illegal gun trafficking.
"My hope and my expectation is that they're going to be coming relatively soon. I've made no secret of the fact that this is a matter of incredible urgency and I think the president's plan is to make a difference in localities like Chicago this summer," Lightfoot told reporters Wednesday as she met with Biden outside O'Hare Airport.
The strike force teams will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and share information with local and state law enforcement agencies about where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes in an effort to bring down gun-dealing rings.
Biden's meeting with Lightfoot came after more than 100 people were shot and 19 killed over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, the city’s most violent weekend this year. It also came hours after two ATF officials and a Chicago police officer were shot early Wednesday while on duty in an unmarked law enforcement vehicle on the city’s Far South Side.
Lightfoot has come under increasing pressure to take action.
The mayor campaigned as a public safety expert and on Tuesday vowed that her administration is "doing absolutely everything that we can to stem the violence." But the city council and neighborhood officials are growing restless.
At least 1,600 people have been shot so far in Chicago in 2021 — an 11% increase compared to 2020 and a 58% increase compared to 2019, according to the Chicago Police Department's crime statistics for the week ending June 28.
In a recent interview with WTTW, a local PBS station, Mayor Lightfoot blamed the violence on several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and gun laws in the states and locales surrounding Chicago.
"I believe that violence is a manifestation of systemic problems, and it's a public health crisis," she said. "When you see, in way too many neighborhoods, a lack of jobs, a lack of investment — these are historic, decades-long problems."
Chicago is "surrounded by" suburbs and states "that have very lax gun laws," Lightfoot continued.