by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online attempts to gauge what President Donald Trump means by “sending in the feds” to deal with Chicago’s violent streets.
Given that one of Trump’s closest advisers is Rudy Giuliani, a legendary United States attorney in New York City before becoming the Big Apple’s mayor, I think we can glean the president’s meaning.
Rudy hired me as a young prosecutor in the mid Eighties. He was already a high-ranking Reagan Justice Department official when he returned to New York, intent on flexing federal muscle to make a real impact on the city’s two biggest crime problems: drug-fueled street violence and the mafia. His success launched his career in electoral politics.
The federal strategy employed in New York can work in Chicago. Indeed, though street crime is not the core mission of federal law enforcement, the U.S. penal code is better equipped to deal with it today than three decades ago.
But make no mistake: While the feds can improve the situation in Chicago, they cannot fix it. By itself, the 12,000-strong CPD is nearly as big as the FBI’s nationwide force of less than 14,000 agents, only a small number of whom work in Chicago — and even fewer on street crime there. (See the website of the FBI’s Chicago office, which mentions “violent crime” only fleetingly.) New York City’s stunning decline in crime did not occur until Rudy Giuliani made the three-block walk from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office to City Hall — at which point the mayor and Bill Bratton, the commissioner of the 30,000-strong New York City Police Department, led a revolution in policing.
In fact, the best thing the feds can do for Chicago right now could not be done in Chicago. It would have to be done in Washington.
In Chicago, federal law enforcement could make a difference by using and building on task-force arrangements with the CPD and state police. High-crime areas could be targeted over a sustained period for investigations of narcotics trafficking, firearms offenses, violent crimes in aid of racketeering (racketeering can include street-gang violence and drug conspiracies), and extortionate interference with commerce by violence or threats. A healthy percentage of the cases developed — involving the most heinous crimes — could then be indicted in federal court, where the penalties are stiffer and surer.