CHICAGO - The Chicago Police Department announced Monday a new Gun Investigations Team (GIT).
The team will focus on interrupting the illegal flow of weapons into the city to curb gun violence.
"The Gun Investigations Team will make our communities safer by identifying and apprehending those who are driving violence in our neighborhoods," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said in a statement. "By showing these gun traffickers and gun offenders there are consequences to their actions, we can hold them accountable and prevent further violent crimes from happening."
The team, which launched this week, consists of CPD officers, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Task Force officers, and a Firearms Investigation Team.
The effort depends heavily on people coming forward with information in exchange for money. The money will come from a $1 million fund for tips about illegal guns announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week.
The team will conduct investigations into illegal gun sellers and straw purchasers, interstate investigations, tracing recovered firearms, and investigating Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card revocations.
These investigations will allow officers to prevent guns from getting into the hands of violent criminals, according to law enforcement officials.
GIT officers and city patrol officers will receive training from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The team will also work locally with the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office and federally with the United States Attorney’s Office.
In addition, CPD said they plan to work with community partnerships through the city’s summer safety plan, a whole-of-government approach aimed at curbing violence in Chicago’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
Police have long paid for information, but Brown said the department has never launched a program that specifically targets gun trafficking and straw purchasers — people who legally buy weapons then provide them to people who cannot legally purchase them.
"The point of this is to get the gun before it hits the streets at the trafficking level," he said.
Ëlena Gottreich, deputy director for prosecutorial strategies for the department and one of the new team’s leaders, said that while the department recovers thousands of illegal guns a year, "We lacked the mechanism to intercept the guns prior to them hitting the streets."
After another bloody weekend that ended with more than 60 people shot, including 10 fatally, and with homicide totals expected to surge in what is typically the most violent time of year, Brown said it’s especially important to seek out those who have are unwilling to come forward with information.
"Someone knows who is being paid as a third party to purchase guns for a violent person in this city, that would do a drive-by shooting on young people celebrating a graduation, who have been reluctant to give it to police," he said, referring to a shooting late Saturday on the West Side in which a 12-year-old girl and four teenagers were wounded by gunfire at an outside party.
Brown also said the team — which includes Cook County and federal prosecutors — will charge gun traffickers "with the highest crime we can."
The announcement comes days after Brown and Lightfoot talked to President Joe Biden about what his administration might do about gun violence in Chicago. When Brown returned from the White House he said he would soon roll out a new initiative.
Biden recently announced he would deploy so-called "strike force teams" to Chicago and other major cities but Brown said he needed to do something independent of that effort.
"Chicago can’t wait for the strike force," he said. "We have to do everything we can from a law enforcement perspective to take guns off the streets from violent people," he said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.