Chicago can expect to see “millions of dollars” of extra federal cash to help battle crime in the nation’s most murderous city – a dubious title that involves some 100 minors yearly, according to statements made this week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder while in Chicago to name the newest top prosecutor for northern Illinois.
The high crime here – with some 530 murders last year – has put many officials, including President Barack Obama whose home base is here, on the defensive as a seemingly first-class city at times tallies up battlezone numbers of shootings and homicide victims.
Holder was guarded with details, including on an exact dollar amount, but said a primary focus will be cutting off the supply of illegal weapons that exchange so easily on Chicago’s streets. He did, however, say that he would deploy more agents, managers and a new director for the local office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The new U.S. Attorney in Chicago, which oversees all of the Northern Illinois District, is Zachary Fardon, who made a name while handling one of the top chairs in some of the biggest political corruption trials in recent history – including Operation Safe Road. Following his role in convictions that included former Gov. George Ryan, Fardon then went to Tennessee to run the Middle District office there.
“He has also shown his determination in just the few short weeks he’s been on the job to act aggressively to protect the people of the Northern District from the gun- and gang-fueled violence that steals too many lives, and too many promising futures, each year,” Holder said in Fardon’s swearing in ceremony Monday.
“He understands the magnitude of the public safety challenges that grip too many Chicago neighborhoods every day,” Holder said. “He has called for creative solutions to gang problems, recognizing as President Obama and I have that we can’t arrest our way to safer communities. And he knows that we all must work together to fight back.”
Switching – or rather refocusing – the target of an office Patrick Fitzgerald ran for 11 years, from corruption to violent crime won’t be a total changeover but was a message that Fardon welcomed. Still, the new prosecutor was quick to say that, alone, his office and the agencies that feed it cases – including the FBI and Immigration – could not solve the gang violence that bloodies so many neighborhoods in Chicago.
For him, the root of the problem is social justice – including, poverty, education and jobs – and ridding it will need great investment on all levels by communities, and perhaps business, as much as educational and law enforcement agencies.
“It is too big, it is too deep, it is too insidious and it starts at too young an age,” Fardon said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s prepared remarks for Monday in Chicago, as supplied by the U.S. Attorney’s Office: