First on CNN: ATF seeking sharp increase of agents in Chicago

Story highlights

  • Trump promised to 'send in the feds' if things don't improve in Chicago
  • It is unclear if the move is in response to Trump's statement

Washington (CNN)The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is looking to transfer approximately 20 agents to Chicago in an effort to "beef up" the federal presence in the city, two federal law enforcement officials told CNN Friday.

The additional agents will form a new task force, which the ATF referred to in internal documents as the "Chicago Crime Guns Strike Force," in an effort to stem the city's gun violence.
    The increase, one official said, has been in the works for some time and is not in response to President Donald Trump tweeting last week that "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible 'carnage' going on ... I will send in the feds."
    Earlier Friday, the second official could not say for sure that Trump's comment had nothing to do with decision, considering its timing. But an ATF spokesperson later said Trump's administration has not spoken to the ATF about "possible strategies at this time."
    "ATF is exploring various options as we are committed to furthering law enforcement efforts in Chicago," the spokesperson added. "One of those options is to send additional agents to Chicago on permanent transfers. ATF is still early in the process of developing strategies and will be prepared to discuss these options further once plans are finalized."
    There are currently more than 40 agents assigned to the Chicago area, so the surge would increase that force to more than 60 agents.
    "We have received no word from the federal government to confirm these reports, but it would be welcome news if the administration has indeed agreed to one of Mayor Emanuel's requests for federal resources," Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said in a statement Friday.
    "We remain hopeful that they will also provide added DEA and FBI agents, that they will boost the prosecution rate for federal gun crimes in Chicago and that they will provide funding for successful violence prevention efforts."
    The officials told CNN that ATF headquarters in Washington sent out a bulletin to field offices around the country Wednesday looking for agents to volunteer for permanent transfer to the Chicago area.
    One official said it's unusual to ask for permanent relocation in reaction to a specific problem. Typically, it would just be a surge of agents for 30 to 60 days.
    The bulletin notes there have been 4,386 shootings and more than 750 homicides in 2016 alone, which is a 58% increase over 2015. It goes on to say, "ATF is committed to helping Chicago law enforcement partners to prevent and reduce these violent killings and assaults."
    Trump's tweet did not specify what was meant by "feds," but some had questioned whether he intended to send in the National Guard. Last week, Emanuel said the guard would not be welcome but he would appreciate federal help.