USA First Look

Trump threatens to send federal authorities to Chicago to end 'carnage'

President Trump has repeatedly cited Chicago's gun violence as a sign that American cities need him and his 'law-and-order' message in the White House.

Crosses are displayed for each person slain in Chicago this year during a quiet march along Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Dec. 31, 2016. President Trump said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel should ask for federal help if he isn't able to bring down a homicide count that soared last year.
Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times/AP
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If officials in the nation's third-largest city fail to halt the "carnage" inflicted by a wave of gun violence, then federal authorities will have to come in and halt it for them, President Donald Trump said in a tweet Tuesday night.

Chicago's gun violence was a frequent refrain for Mr. Trump on the campaign trail, when he branded himself as the "law-and-order" candidate ready to clean up American streets. And it's no secret that the hub of the Midwest has seen an alarming rise in violent crime recently – an increase that some observers blame on rising tensions between the police and minority communities.

On Twitter, Trump said that, if the violence fails to subside, the federal government would intervene. 

Trump appears to be pulling his numbers from an article published Monday by The Chicago Tribune, which reported that the tally of shootings and homicides in the city this month is on course to surpass the two-decade high recorded in January 2016. 

Trump's tweet also came the day after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as a chief of staff to President Barack Obama, criticized the newly inaugurated head-of-state's preoccupation with the size of the crowds at his swearing-in ceremony. But this is also not the first time Trump has mentioned sending the feds into Chicago to curb violent crime.

During his inauguration speech Friday, Trump painted a bleak picture of what he described as the nation's poverty-stricken inner cities, citing drug-fueled crimes and gang activity that have cut short many young lives.

"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now," Trump said.

Earlier this month, he tweeted a similar call for federal intervention in Chicago, citing the city's murder rate:

Mayor Emanuel responded by agreeing that the federal government should promote public safety by not only holding criminals accountable for breaking gun laws but also by passing new restrictions on firearms, building collaborative relationships between local and federal law enforcement, and funding summer jobs and crime-prevention initiatives for at-risk youths.

Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a tweet that Chicago needs a constructive agenda, not another series of punitive actions.

At least one joint venture with the federal government, the Violence Reduction Network (VRN), is already taking aim at the city's gun crimes. The program, sponsored by the US Department of Justice, offers a big-data approach to policing, enabling police to identify which individuals are at the highest risk for either committing gun violence or becoming a victim, as The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month.

"Can you imagine where we’d be if everyone wasn’t working as hard as they were now?" Christopher Mallette, executive director of the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, told the Monitor last year. "The reason that we struggle with a solution is that people don’t want to look at the problem in its totality. We want to look at the part that makes sense to us."

Trump has indicated that his idea of federal support could differ significantly from that envisioned by the VRN team, repeatedly pointing to Chicago as a locale in need of "tougher" enforcement.

"I think Chicago needs stop-and-frisk," he said in September.

Following Trump's tweet Tuesday night, Emanuel said in an interview with WTTW in Chicago that more federal assistance would be welcome in his city.

"Over the years the federal government’s stepped back their resources, which we have stepped up," Emanuel said, as the Tribune reported. "The federal government can be a partner, and to be honest they haven’t been for decades."

Frank Giancamilli, a spokesman for Chicago police, disputed the Tribune's numbers, saying there were 182 shootings in the city this year as of Jan. 23, "which is exactly flat from last year." The number of homicides, he said, is up to 38 from 33 this time last year.

Even so, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said his department is "more than willing" to work with the Feds to "boost federal prosecution rates for gun crimes in Chicago" and build stronger partnerships with the Department of Justice, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

About 2.7 million people live in Chicago, which saw more shootings and homicides last year than any other US city, according to the FBI and Chicago police data. The rate of murder cases solved and closed, meanwhile, is among the lowest in the country.

This report includes material from Reuters and the Associated Press.