White House Blames Chicago Violence On 'Morality'

by Seth Millstein
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

During an off-camera press briefing Friday, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders blamed Chicago's crime rate on "morality." The same day, President Trump announced on Twitter that he is sending federal agents to the city in an attempt to reduce "crime and killings."

“I think that the problem there is that it’s a crime problem,” Sanders replied when asked if lenient gun regulations were to blame for Chicago's murder rate. “I think crime is probably driven by morality more than anything else so I think that this is a law enforcement issue and our focus is trying to add additional support.”

Violent crime rose in major cities throughout the country between 2015 and 2016, according to a study from the Major Cities Chiefs Association. But that study also showed that Chicago's violent crime rate is lower than that of several other major cities. Insofar as murder rates go, Chicago's isn't even in the top ten of large cities nationally, according to CNN. Police data analyzed by Reuters showed that, in the first half of 2017, the number of murders in Chicago decreased slightly from the same period the year before.

Nevertheless, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Friday that the administration is dispatching a task force of assorted law enforcement officials, including agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to "stop lawlessness" in the city.

“The Trump Administration will not let the bloodshed go on; we cannot accept these levels of violence,” Sessions said in a press release. “That’s why, under President Trump’s strong leadership, we have created the Chicago Gun Strike Force and are sending 20 more permanent ATF agents to Chicago, reallocating federal prosecutors and prioritizing prosecutions to reduce gun violence, and working with our law enforcement partners to stop the lawlessness.”

According to the New York Times, the Chicago Gun Strike Task Force will comprise 20 ATF agents, as well as Illinois State Police officers, prosecutors and existing members of the Chicago Police Department. Tim Jones, who is commanding the ATF unit, said that the group's "sole responsibility will be to fight gun crime in the city of Chicago."

The mayor's office said that it appreciates the new agents.

"Six months ago we made it clear that we would welcome additional federal support, and six months later we appreciate the 20 new ATF agents that are now arriving," said Adam Collins, spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.