Feds sending gun trafficking strike forces to major cities amid spike in shootings

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The Justice Department is deploying anti-gun trafficking strike forces to New York and four other major American cities this summer to crack down on a disturbing surge in shootings, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Tuesday.

The five strike forces will focus on upending “trafficking corridors” that funnel illegal firearms from Southern states to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C., where gun violence has been steadily on the rise over the past 18 months, according to Garland.

“Working with our local partners to tackle violent crime is one of the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” the AG said. “Our firearms trafficking strike forces will investigate and disrupt the networks that channel crime guns into our communities with tragic consequences. This effort reflects our shared commitment to keep communities safe.”

The strike forces will be led by U.S. attorneys in each of the five cities and are expected to get to work within 30 days, according to the Justice Department. They will be staffed with officers from local law enforcement agencies like the NYPD as well as agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The federal intervention allows the strike forces to operate in a cross-jurisdictional fashion, exchanging intelligence and collaborating across state lines to “focus enforcement against entire trafficking networks, from the places where guns are unlawfully obtained to the areas where they are used to commit violent crimes,” according to the Justice Department.

Garland said he will elaborate on the makeup and responsibilities of the strike forces during an event with President Biden on Wednesday.

A wave of gun violence has washed over New York City since it began relaxing coronavirus restrictions this spring.

Compared with the same period in 2020, shootings in the city were up by 73% in May, according to data from the NYPD. Overall crime ticked up by 22% in the same timespan, the data showed.

The rash of violence has become a major focus of the city’s mayoral race in the past few weeks.

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