The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Illinois has scored some significant recent successes as part of its anti-gang efforts and is a “force multiplier” to help state and local law enforcement curb gang activity, according to Chicago’s top federal prosecutor.
“The Chicago Police Department has 12,000 officers, the federal U.S. Attorneys and federal agents, we can’t replicate that,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Morris Pasqual in an interview with WTTW News. “What we can do is essentially function as more or less a force multiplier. We can bring added resources, added money, added expertise, added personnel and just added effort to the effort.”
Pasqual says the work requires partnerships across agencies.
“I think if the last 20 years has shown anything it’s that (the anti-gang effort) has to be a whole of government approach… which is the only way we’re going to have any shot at being successful in this,” said Pasqual.
Just last week, David Arrington, a member of the Wicked Town faction of the Traveling Vice Lords street gang that used violence and murder to protect its drug turf, was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison.
Arrington was one of 13 defendants convicted following a multi-year investigation.
In November, the reputed leader of the Wicked Town gang and an associate were found guilty on racketeering, firearms and drug charges after federal prosecutors presented evidence that implicated the gang in at least 19 murders and 19 attempted murders as well as armed robberies and assaults.
“Those people, those are people who have shown by their own track record, that they don’t want to obey society’s rules,” said Pasqual. “And for the protection of community, and for the protection of people in the community, they need and they appropriately deserve very lengthy terms of incarceration.”
Earlier this month, a federal jury also convicted three leaders of the Goonie Boss/Goonie Gang that was found liable for six murders in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood on the South Side.
And a recent federal anti-drug trafficking operation also led to charges against 13 alleged gang members and shut down an open-air drug market in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Pasqual said the fragmentation of gangs, the proliferation of guns and social media has created a volatile mix that can often lead to deadly outbreaks of violence.
“The ready availability of guns has really caused a spike in the murders and the violence,” said Pasqual, who noted that gang members often taunt each other on social media.
“Personal beefs get fueled by social media and the internet and they get escalated, and then you have retaliation on top of retaliation,” said Pasqual.
In June, April Perry, a former ethics officer with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was nominated to be the next U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois after John Lausch stepped down earlier this year.
Perry’s nomination is currently awaiting Senate confirmation.
If confirmed, Perry would become the first woman to serve as Chicago’s top federal prosecutor.