CHICAGO — Attorney General Merrick Garland visited St. Agatha Church on the city’s West Side yesterday amid several meetings in Chicago with city leaders on gun violence.
“Violent crime in Chicago is a terrible tragedy. We have to do everything we can to bring that violence down,” Garland said.
Garland visited the Dirksen Federal Building Friday morning, meeting with about 15 law enforcement officials, including U.S. Attorney John Lausch and CPD Supt. David Brown. Other leaders from across the midwest joined the meeting virtually.
The Department of Justice is launching five ‘strike forces’ to combat gun violence and illegal gun trafficking networks, with one of the forces coming to Chicago.
“I’m not here from Washington to tell you what to do, I’m here to find out what we can do to help you. Cooperation around these offices is the key for this to work,” Garland said.
Yesterday, Garland made several stops on the city’s West Side, meeting with police and community members at Columbus Park in the 11th Police District.
There were questions on whether the meeting at the church would even happen after ten people were shot in two incidents just blocks away on Wednesday night.
“I think by the end of the meeting, he acknowledged he could feel the urgency and the pain in the room. He could feel that we are in a time of great crisis,” Heartland Alliance President Evelyn Diaz said.
Diaz said Garland heard from the mother of a gun violence victim and participants of READI Chicago, which uses data to identify men at risk of being impacted by violence, connecting them with trauma treatment and job opportunities.
“He heard we are out of time. We need the city and state and federal agencies to help us bring programs like this to more people,” Diaz said.
For context, the latest numbers from Chicago police show murders are down slightly from last year, but shooting incidents are up 10 percent from 2020, which is a 60 percent jump from 2019.
The number of shooting victims who are children has also increased.
Garland said taking down illegal gun trafficking is one tactic in the administration’s effort to address nationwide concerns over gun violence.
St. Agatha Parish is hosting a community walk for peace tonight following the visit.
“It is really to say we want to be able to support the families in the community. We want to offer you an alternative,” Father Larry Dowling said.
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The peace walk begins Friday night at 7 p.m., with the church sharing information with the community about resources available to young people through the church.