The feds are stepping into Chicago's seemingly intractable gun violence problem.
A newly-formed prosecutorial unit called the Violent Crimes section will focus solely on how federal statutes can be used to stem the city's bloody gun crime epidemic, the U.S Attorney's Office in Chicago announced Monday. The unit began operations April 1.
The announcement comes less than a day after five children were shot at a South Side park on Easter Sunday. The children, who were between 11 and 15 years old, were among the more than 40 people wounded by Chicago gun violence over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Eight people died, the Associated Press reports.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for local U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, told the Tribune the 16-member Violent Crimes unit will use a combination of drug and gun statutes along with extortion and money laundering laws to go after "criminal crews" that commit shootings and other acts of violence.
As Chicago's former Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Levenson told the Associated Press last year, using federal drug or gun laws to hit at gang members means stiffer sentences and fewer complicated hurdles than labor-intensive racketeering, or RICO, laws.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron DeWald, who previously served as deputy chief of the narcotics division and as a former Cook County state's attorney, was picked to lead the team, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Fardon's office has been under pressure to tackle both the area's violent crime problem and corruption since he was sworn in late last year.
The Violent Crimes section comes as a part of bigger change within the U.S. Attorney's Northern District office. The office has undergone a complete restructuring that prompted the breakup of larger divisions, like gangs and narcotics, into smaller groups, NBC Chicago reports.
In addition to the newest violent crime fighting unit, the office created a new section focusing on securities and commodities fraud, and will also target cybercrime.