The Justice Department launched a strike force to New York and other cities, set to be deployed within within the next month, in response to a surge in violent crime around the country.
President Joe Biden in a Wednesday address encouraged big cities to invest some of their COVID-19 relief funds into policing and pushing alternative crime reduction steps such as increased community support and summer jobs for teenagers.
“Mayors have the power to help shape and enforce the laws in their cities, but they can’t control the laws in neighboring cities and states even though the gun legally bought there often ends up in their streets,” Biden said.
He said he wanted to “supercharge” what works in reducing crime while also encouraging Congress to pass new legislation.
Biden announced a “zero tolerance” policy that would give no leeway to gun dealers who fail to comply with federal law — their licenses to sell would be revoked on a first offense.
“These merchants of death are breaking the law for profit,” Biden said. “If you willfully sell a gun to someone who’s prohibited, my message to you is this: We’ll find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland described federal partnerships with local police as one of the justice Department’s most important responsibilities.
“Today, the department is taking another concrete step to address violent crime and illegal firearms trafficking,” Garland said Tuesday. “Our firearms trafficking strike forces will investigate and disrupt the networks that channel crime guns into our communities with tragic consequences. This effort reflects our shared commitment to keep communities safe.”
As of June 13, more than 700 people have been shot in New York City this year, and there’s usually a surge in crimes during the summer.
Rep. Nydia Velasquez, who represents part of New York City in Congress, said Biden’s plan would help local governments make communities safer.
“The time is now to end gun violence,” she tweeted.
In 2020, then President Donald Trump suggested he would send federal law enforcement officers to New York City amid protests over George Floyd’s death and an uptick in shooting incidents. At the time, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said New York did not need federal help.
“New Yorkers and the NYPD know how to keep this city safe,” de Blasio said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke with Trump on the phone at the time and told him federal action was not necessary. He told Trump that if the situation warranted it, he would send state resources to help the NYPD.
The governor said during a phone conference that he spoke to the president the day prior regarding federal agents possibly being sent to NYC.
New York City does collaborate with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, de Blasio said recently. The ATF partnership with the NYPD is the first time the agency has partnered with a local police department this way.
“It means we’re going to have ATF agents directly embedded in the NYPD, working together to find guns and quickly act on the information that they find to stop the flow of guns,” de Blasio said. “It takes information, it takes partnership. It takes the ability to quickly act, that can only happen when the federal government and the NYPD are working, literally, side-by-side here in New York City.”
The partnership means the NYPD will better be able to trace guns, NYPD Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner John Miller said.
“Every gun tells a story. Every bullet tells a story. Every shell casing tells a story and ATF technology helps us bring that all together,” he said. “We talk about stray bullets. There are no stray bullets. There are stray dogs, but every bullet has an owner and that’s the person who fired that shot. And those are our targets in the city.”
PIX11 has reached out to de Blasio and the NYPD for comment on Biden’s plan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.