President Donald Trump threatened Chicago with sending in the “Feds” if the city didn’t reduce its gun violence, a massive problem that local authorities, police, advocates, and researchers have been struggling to resolve for years.
If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Trump’s source is presumably a Chicago Tribune statistic, discussed earlier that night by Bill O’Reilly on his Fox News show. It is unclear, however, what Trump meant by “Feds” — whether he meant federal agencies like the FBI or actual US troops. Trump’s tweet also comes a day after Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized Trump for focusing on the size of the crowd attending his inauguration.
Emanuel actually would welcome more “feds” in his city, he said in an interview with WTTW before Trump’s tweet. He said the federal government could help with tracking illegal guns or helping to pay for more police officers.
While contrary to Trump’s rhetoric of a national crime wave, overall crime rates in the US have dropped significantly in recent decades, the increase in gun violence in Chicago has indeed been staggering—the homicide rate in 2016 was highest in two decades. But experts are struggling to explain this sudden jump, which suggests a quick fix of sending in unspecified “feds” might not be the perfect solution.
A new report from the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago could not identify a definitive cause of the hike in violence. It did however, point out:
One key implication of these data is the importance of a policy response that is focused on the core problem: violence concentrated largely in a moderate number of our most disadvantaged neighborhoods, carried out by teens and young adults in public places with illegally owned, and perhaps increasingly lethal, firearms.
The solution put forth by the city in September, which is somewhat in line with Trump insistence on sending in more law enforcement and getting “tougher,” is adding more police officers. But simply putting more cops on the streets is a contentious idea among experts and advocates, who say it does not guarantee a drop in crime. “The main root [of gun violence in Chicago’s South Side] is three things: unemployment, proliferation of guns, and poor education,” anti-gun violence activist Father Michael Pfleger told Quartz last March.
Chicago is in fact already among the most policed big cities in the United States, and its police force is notorious for abuses, deeply mistrusted by the community. It was recently slammed in a report by the Department of Justice for its officers’ excessive use of force.