How The Feds Could Help (And Not Help) Chicago | WBEZ
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How The Feds Could Help (And Not Help) Chicago

President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night tweet threatening to “send in the Feds” to fix Chicago’s gun violence problem drew strong reactions from city officials on Wednesday.

Chicago police have said 234 people have been shot in the city in 2017 through Tuesday night. Thirty-eight have died. That is an increase in both shootings and homicides through the same period last year.

Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, talked with WBEZ’s Melba Lara about what the feds could do to help curb Chicago’s gun violence.

Melba Lara: What could the federal government do in Chicago as it relates to gun violence?

Jeffrey Cramer: The problem in Chicago with guns and homicides is gang related. The issue is twofold: one is gun prosecutors, and that is certainly something the federal government can do under certain conditions. The second thing is stopping the 10- 11- and 12-year-old boys from getting involved in gangs.

The federal government can bring resources to fund extra agents, or more prosecutors, to go after gun cases -- and I think that would surely do something. But you also need resources to try and prevent individuals from getting into gangs in the first place, otherwise we’re going to have the same conversation in a year.

Lara: Do you think Donald Trump should send National Guard troops into Chicago?

Cramer: I can’t imagine anybody would think that is a good idea, to be honest. Sending in the National Guard, you have to deem a national crisis or an emergency crisis. The governor has got to invite them in, and then what do you do? Now you’ve got a bunch of heavily armed guys standing on the South Side of Chicago looking for what? They’re not making cases, they are just reacting. They can’t make an arrest. The National Guard can’t arrest people, so other than a show of force, Lord knows what it would accomplish. 

Lara: What’s it going to take to make a significant dent in the violence problem in Chicago?

Cramer: At some point I think it’s diminishing returns. Certainly, if you hire more agents who focus solely on gun cases, and had federal prosecutors who focused solely on gun cases, then by definition you would bring more gun cases and send more people to jail. … But this administration has issued an edict freezing all federal hires, so that is something they’d have to revisit if they wanted more agents and more federal prosecutors.

Lara: What would you recommend if you had a chance to advise Donald Trump?

Cramer: Have more prosecutors and agents on the street to bring more cases to get those people off the street. I think everyone would agree that is a good thing. But probably more important, in my opinion, is that there is GED, drug treatment and job placement. You need both, and that takes resources. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. To hear the full interview, press 'play' above.

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