Should the feds get more involved in prosecuting gun crimes?
Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey thinks so. Today, he issued a press release calling on the U.S. attorney to more actively coordinate efforts with State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Fritchey points to a successful project to aggressively prosecute gun crimes under federal laws in Richmond, Va. Offenders didn't get parole, and were shipped off to the federal prison system, not a local penitentiary where they would be with people they knew from their neighborhoods.
"Gun crime went down dramatically," Fritchey says.
In Chicago, a similar program started in 2002 called Project Safe Neighborhoods, but the number of gun crime cases prosecuted in federal courts has dropped steadily, he said. Fritchey would like to see the number go back up.
"This concept has been supported by [the] Brady [Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence] and the NRA," he said. "There are not a lot of issues in the area of gun violence that can bring those two sides together."
UPDATE: Later Wednesday, Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said federal prosecutors have not let up on their efforts against "gangs, guns and drugs."
Federal and state authorities confer on cases, and often route them to the venue in which a potential sentence is greater, he said. But in 2006, Illinois enacted an armed habitual criminal law that raised state penalties. So some cases that might previously have been prosecuted in federal court go instead to state court because the maximum penalties there now are higher, he said.
"Many of those defendants are facing greater sentences under that statute," he said.
Also, looking strictly at the number of firearms cases underestimates the federal anti-violence approach, he said.
"There are much broader comprehensive anti-violence efforts that we engage in constantly," he said.
Besides prosecutions, the federal government also operates prevention and re-entry programs to provide job training and other resources to redirect offenders away from gun violence, Samborn said.
"It has a huge impact on reducing recidivism," he said.
On Tuesday, the Cook County Board enacted a new ordinance that takes effect in August to require firearm owners in suburban Cook County to report the make, model and serial number of lost, stolen, sold, transferred or destroyed firearms to the sheriff within 48 hours.
Read the Sun-Times story about the "lost gun" ordinance here.
Read a Feb. 4 Sun-Times story about a new Chicago drug-fighting headquarters designed to end agency rivalries here.
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