After backing down from his mass gang arrest plan in July, Sen. Mark Kirk is channelling his efforts into convincing the newly-appointed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) director to appoint a Chicago-based anti-gang coordinator.
In his call to ATF Director Todd Jones to appoint an anti-gang coordinator during a Monday press conference, Kirk highlighted Illinois' need for a specific anti-gang strategy.
“The federal government does not give illegal guns and violent criminal gangs the attention they deserve,” Senator Kirk said in a release from his office. “Illinois leads the nation in per-capita gang members.
Joined by regional law enforcement officials like Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, Waukegan Deputy Police Chief Mark McCormick and others, Kirk shared his letter to Jones, noting a conversation the two shared earlier this month shortly after Jones was confirmed.
"You and I must work together to crush the [Gangster Disciples], [Latin Kings] and all other violent gangs in Illinois," Kirk wrote, noting that according to Chicago police, 80 percent of the city's homicides from last year were gang-related.
During the press conference, the Tribune reports Kirk told reporters the current incarnation of criminal empires are "far in excess of whatever Capone would have ever dreamed of when you talk about their size."
"They far eclipse the size of the police forces involved. That's why we need federal backup. That's why we pull all of the resources of the federal government in on this problem," Kirk continued.
Kirk's original anti-gang plan to arrest some 18,000 members of the Gangster Disciples, Chicago's most violent street gang, was decried by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) as an "upper-middle-class, elitist white boy solution" to the problem. Kirk later retreated from the mass arrest plan, and he and Rush have since banded together in the fight against the state's gang problem.
In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Kirk’s requested $19.52 million to “directly fight gangs of national significance.” As the Sun-Times notes, political deadlock in Washington and a host of budget issues is stalling progress.