FBI Director James B. Comey speaks to reporters on Monday, April 14, 2014. At left is Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media
FBI chief blames ‘ingrained’ gang culture for city homicide rate
Chicago’s “ingrained” gang culture is to blame for homicide rates far higher than other large U.S. cities, FBI Director James B. Comey said Monday.
Speaking a day after one of the city’s warmest and bloodiest weekends so far this year, Comey said gang values went back decades in Chicago, but he warned “you can’t arrest your way to a healthier neighborhood.”
Comey — appointed last year by President Barack Obama — was speaking at the FBI’s Chicago office Monday afternoon after visiting town to meet with other law enforcement officials, including Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy and U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon.
Asked why Chicago has failed to cut homicide levels as successfully as New York and Los Angeles, Comey told reporters,“Chicago has a larger and more ingrained and sophisticated street gang structure than many American cities.”
“It is long-standing,” he added. “When I was in law school here in the 1980s it was a big challenge — now the children and the grandchildren of some of those gang-bangers are back in those organizations, and it’s very difficult to root them out for that reason.
“They’re old, they’re embedded in a part of the culture in this city, and it’s an enormous challenge,” Comey said.
He said he has funds to hire 1,000 agents nationwide, some of whom will likely be used to fight street crime in Chicago, though he made no specific guarantee.
And he laughed off comments Mayor Rahm Emanuel made last year, when the mayor described federal efforts to tackle gun crime in Chicago as “horrible.”
“I’m sure whatever he said, he meant it constructively,” Comey said.
Earlier Monday, McCarthy again complained that “lax state and federal gun laws” are hampering his department’s ability to stem street violence.
And, he said, “Weather doesn’t cause crime.”
“It creates conditions which may contribute to crime,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t prevent crime, either.”
Four people were killed and 33 were wounded in shootings this weekend, including a 24-year-old mother of two.
McCarthy acknowledged this weekend’s spike in violence during a news conference Monday afternoon. He said some of it was caused by conflicts among gang factions.
But he also said police have taken 1,500 illegal guns off the street this year already. He again called for laws that would send someone to jail if they’re caught carrying an illegal weapon and require the reporting of a lost, stolen or transferred gun.
He said police are “running on a hamster wheel, and we’re drinking from a fire hose, seizing these guns” from criminals.
“They’re not learning that carrying a firearm is going to have a severe impact on what’s happening in their lives,” McCarthy said.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire