With yet another deadly weekend on the books in Chicago — eight dead and 37 wounded, including five children — the feds went public Monday with the creation of a special unit tasked with targeting the perpetrators of violence on city streets.
Federal extortion, money laundering, drug and gun laws will be put to wider use as part of a strategy to target the organized gangs and crews responsible for the growing toll of dead and wounded in Chicago.
The Violent Crimes section of the U.S. Attorney's Office is headed by Ron DeWald, an assistant federal prosecutor, former deputy chief of federal narcotics division and a former Cook County assistant state's attorney. The unit began operations on April 1.
"This is putting a group of talented attorneys together and telling them that their mission is to help the city and the district tamp down violent crime...and to use all the tools and strategies at their disposal that are going accomplish that mission," U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Randall Samborn told reporters on Monday, April 21.
The shooting season of 2014 is off to a rousing start.
One weekend ago, four lives were claimed and 33 people were wounded over three days of gunfire as the lingering cold temps of a long winter's "Chiberia" gave way to the hot tempers of a city known worldwide as "Chiraq," an unfortunate-but-apt nickname for a city beleaguered by gangland violence.
On Easter Sunday on the South Side, five children were wounded in a drive-by shooting near the intersection of Marquette and Michigan Avenue — an 11-year old girl, shot in the neck; a 14-year-old girl, shot in the belly; a 14-year-old boy, shot in the leg; a 14-year-old girl, shot in the rear end; and a 15-year-old girl, shot in the arm.
[ COMMENTARY: By Dennis Robaugh ]
The weekend prior began with the death of 17-year-old Gakirah Barnes, who was riddled with bullets that Friday afternoon in the Woodlawn neighborhood.
Barnes and a friend were walking on the sidewalk when someone drove by and opened fire. The force of the bullets threw Barnes through the air and onto someone's front stoop. Neighbors tried to stop the blood with towels, to no avail.
Her mother has worked with community agencies to raise a $10,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the teen-ager's killer.
So brazen are the gunmen, they fear neither the eyes on the street or the cameras in the sky.
On Sunday afternoon, in South Lawndale, as a 13-year-old boy watched from his house, an orange Hummer blocked a Lincoln Navigator beneath a police "blue light" camera. Gunmen stepped out of the Hummer and fired into the Navigator, killing two men.
On Monday, at a graduation ceremony for new police officers, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said a "comprehensive" and "complicated" strategy is in the works to address the violence.
In a recent installment of the CNN documentary series "Chicagoland," a chief theme of which is violence in the city, blues legend Buddy Guy refers to the city's black communities as a "ghost town," describing the economic and social decline that's taken place since he first came to town in the 1950s.
Sing a sad song for Chicago, for Buddy Guy's words easily could refer to the myriad murdered souls — upwards of 400 every year lately — lost on the city streets.Sixteen prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago are being dedicated to this new federal effort, supplementing the efforts of the Chicago Police. What impact will they have?
This column is posted throughout the Patch Chicago network
On Twitter: @DennisRobaugh | On Facebook: Crime-N-Shame
Related: Homicide Watch Chicago on SunTimes.com