Illinois Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durban requested a meeting with the Department of Justice to have Chicago included in the DOJ’s Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative. The program started in 2006 to complement gang prevention, enforcement and anti-rec

“Chicago has experience some of the highest rates of gang violence in the country, and combating it must be a top priority for the Department of Justice’s anti-gang initiative and for the federal government. We also know that we must involve the entire communityûfrom our schools and churches to teachers and parentsûit makes a difference and it save lives.

Sen. Durbin and I are committed to working with Mayor (Richard M.) Daley and Chicago’s dedicated law enforcement personnel to ensure the city has the resources it needs to protect our families and keep our children safe,” Obama said in a written statement. In the first three months of this year, there were 87 homicides.

Though the number is one fewer than the same period last year, the Chicago police plan to beef up its patrol of certain areas. In the wake of a bloody weekend in early April where there were 36 shootingsûnine of them fatalû police officials announced plans to equip and train the department’s 13,500 officers with combat rifles. Police stepped up patrols and put SWAT officers and specialized units on the street.

Police suspect gang involvement a number of the city’s shootings, so far this year. “With as many as 40 gang-related shootings à and so many tragic deaths this year, the violence in our neighborhoods and schools is heartbreaking and has to stop,” Obama said. In an April 28 letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Democratic Senators said that including Chicagoûwhich had been left out of the federal government’s gang programûwould be “appropriate and justified.”

A 2006 DOJ National Youth Gang Center survey indicated that over half of all homicides in Chicago are considered to be gang related, a percentage rivaled only by Los Angeles which reportedly had a slightly higher rate.

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