Following another violent weekend in Chicago in which 56 people were shot, 11 fatally, the Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown announced a new strategy to combat gun violence.
Brown said the department will create a team of 50 officers to target gun traffickers, straw buyers, unscrupulous licensed firearms dealers and anyone who facilitates the flow of illegal guns into the city.
"The point of this investigations team -- which is new and unique, and a first in its class -- is to get the gun before it hits the streets at the trafficking level," Brown said at a news conference Monday. "These third parties need to hear me loud and clear: We're coming for you, and we're going to try to charge you with the highest charge we can, if not in the federal system, then at the state attorney's office."
The new strategy comes amid an 11% increase in shootings in Chicago this year over the same time period as last year.
Aiming his words at those who purchase illegal guns used in crimes, he said, "Do not buy guns for violent people is our message, or you will pay the price for them by doing what we hope to be serious time."
"Whatever they're paying you to go buy these guns ... it's blood money," Brown said. "Blood is on your hands, and we're coming for you."
He said the new gun investigations team will work closely with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as state and federal prosecutors in an attempt to demolish any gun pipelines into the city and bring purveyors of illegal firearms to justice.
Brown said one of the major focuses of the team, which the department began assembling in the spring, will be to trace every illegal gun seized in Chicago to the person who sold the weapons to the perpetrators or those who bought the guns on their behalf.
He said the federal government will also be sending a firearms strike force to the city as early as this week to help curb the flow of illegal firearms.
The superintendent also announced that a 24-hour gun trafficking tipline is being established and will be supported by a $1 million fund allocated by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to "give Chicago residents a voice to remove these tools for violence from the streets of Chicago." He said "significant payouts" will be made for tips that lead to arrests, indictments and convictions of gun traffickers and others that deal in illegal firearms.
"Someone in this community knows who that is, and we want to incentivize you coming forward anonymously," Brown said. "We want to incentivize you to help the police department protect your community by giving these people up."
Brown began the news conference by saying that over the weekend, Chicago police officers seized 113 illegal guns and that, so far this year, a total of 6,629 illegal firearms have been taken off the streets -- a 26% increase from 2020.
"Every gun recovery is a potential deadly force encounter, and every gun recovery is a potential saved life," Brown said.
The superintendent added that 3,264 people have been arrested this year on gun charges.
He also announced arrests in two homicides. In one, a 17-year-old juvenile and an 18-year-old man were arrested in the slaying of a 73-year-old Vietnam vet during a July 14 carjacking. In the other, a 31-year-old suspect was arrested in the fatal execution-style shooting of a man on July 17.
But Brown said seizing illegal guns and solving homicides has clearly not been enough to stem the tide of gun violence overwhelming the city, noting the number of shootings that occurred over the weekend.
Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan said one of the shootings occurred on Saturday night at a graduation party in the Austin neighborhood on the city's West Side and left six people injured, including four children.
"This was a group that had gotten together previously to celebrate a graduation party, and it was very successful, a really good group of kids and individuals and no issues," Deenihan said. "So they decided since they had a successful gathering the first time, then 'why can't we do this again?'"
He said that during the party, a vehicle drove up, and two gunmen opened fire on the group mingling outside.
"There was no motive as to anybody in this group was involved in any criminal activity," Deenihan said.
No arrests were made in what Deenihan described as a mass shooting.
Brown said police in Chicago and across the nation are seeing a surge in drive-by shootings rivaling a level not seen since the 1980s and 1990s.
He said that while the new gun investigations team will be "relentless" in its effort to intercept illegal firearms before they are used on the streets, he added they will need help from the community and "a lot of luck."
"It's always better to be lucky than good, but we're going to be very good at this," he said. "If we are successful, and I believe we will be, it will save untold lives getting these guns out of the hands of people in the first place instead of waiting until after they use the gun or after we make an arrest and recover the gun. We'll be on the front end of this to get the traffickers."