U.S. Senator Kirk coordinates comprehensive, bipartisan effort to fight dangerous gangs in Illinois and across America

Senate Appropriations Committee Moves to Ramp Up National Gang Strategy; Justice Department Funding Bill Takes on Gangs of National Significance, Funds Grant Program for Violent Gang and Gun Crime Reduction, Provides ATF New Tools and Lifts Hiring Freeze at Justice Department
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bipartisan approval of a Kirk-driven initiative to curb dangerous gang violence in Illinois and across the nation.  By a vote of 21-9, the Committee approved the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, which includes Senator Kirk’s priorities to fund initiatives that combat gangs of national significance like the Gangster Disciples, and assist state and local law enforcement with the national effort.
“I want to thank Chairwoman Mikulski for backing this effort to fight violent drug gangs,” Senator Kirk said. “This bill provides necessary funding to combat gangs of national significance. We have a coordinated effort to take down nationally significant gangs, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago — the gang responsible for killing 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton earlier this year. With this new funding for initiatives to fight violent crime and street gangs, I remain focused on aggressively solving this issue. At every level of government, we must do all we can to keep our communities safe, prevent senseless tragedies and save lives.”  
A recording of Senator Kirk’s comments in the CJS Subcommittee markup can be found here.
The FY14 CJS Appropriations Bill allocates $52.3 billion in total discretionary spending, of which funds for fighting crime and reducing gang violence include:
  • $19.52 million in new funds to directly fight gangs of national significance, including $7.52 million for U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) to expand its gang work. Directs the USMS to dedicate $7.52 million to operate anti-gang investigative units to increase law enforcement’s ability to identify, locate and arrest violent gang fugitives, and increase the Marshals Services’ anti-gang training and operations.
  • $12 million above FY13 levels for the Violent Gang and Gun Crime Reduction Grant Program, totaling $17 million from State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance. Instructs modeling the program after the popular Project Safe Neighborhoods program. The increase is aimed at reducing homicides in communities overwhelmed by gangs of national significance and illegally trafficked gun activity. Funds are intended for use in hiring and training new prosecutors and to develop community outreach efforts. 
  • Increase of $100 million to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Up to $73 million of those funds can be used to enhance enforcement of firearms law, and $51 million directed to hire an additional 160 agents. Additionally, $21 million of ATF’s budget is specifically to reduce violent crime under Violent Crime Impact Teams.
  • A report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on its strategy to combat gangs of national significance. The report will discuss best practices for effective gang prevention and intervention techniques, and arrests and prosecution of gang members. 
  • $100 million increase in funds for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to double capacity of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure the FBI has the capacity to manage existing requirements to perform necessary background checks on prospective firearms purchasers.
  • Under State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance, Byrne Innovation Grant Program increased to $21 million, focused on fighting gang activity with public safety programs and the community. $385 million to Byrne Justice Assistance Grants Program, and $35 million to Delinquency Prevention Grants, of which $5 million goes to Gang and Youth Violence Education and Prevention. 
  • Additional: The bill lifts the hiring freeze at DOJ in effect since January 2011 due to budget shortfalls, which will allow new attorneys to be hired. $69 million more to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). $176 million additional funds to Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), majority funds directed to new School Safety Initiative. An increase of $78 million to U.S. Attorneys. 
As recently as June 13, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez discussed the results of a major gang investigation known as “Operation 40-Cal,” which is able to prosecute gangs under new, anti-racketeering RICO statutes that took effect June 2012. Senator Kirk’s comments on the investigation can be found here. 
In May 2013, Senators Kirk and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) met with U.S. Attorney Nominee Zachary Fardon to highlight the need to prioritize prosecution of violent crime in the U.S. Attorney’s office.  Senator Kirk urged Fardon’s swift confirmation stating that, “he is the best pick to build upon Patrick Fitzgerald’s legacy and take down dangerous drug gangs that threaten our communities.” More information about the meeting with Mr. Fardon can be found here.  
Senator Kirk and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy met on July 2 to discuss the history of local gangs and their factions while touring hot spots for gun violence. In April, the two also discussed the prevalence of gangs and illegal guns in the City of Chicago. Senator Kirk sponsored the Manchin-Toomey proposal, entitled the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, that would close gaps in the existing background checks system and reduce gun violence in Chicago and across the U.S. while defending the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. To watch a video explaining the bipartisan bill click here.
In February, Senator Kirk met with the family of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed by gang crossfire in Chicago. Following the meeting, Senator Kirk reiterated his priority to pass legislation that will dry up the supply of illegal weapons to drug gangs that commit violent crimes. Senator Kirk is the lead sponsor of a bill aimed at drying up the supply of illegal weapons to drug gangs. The bill, S. 179, would end straw purchases by making gun trafficking a federal crime. For more information about Senator Kirk’s meeting with the Pendleton family click here.