At Durbin's Urging, Federal Agencies Devote Additional Resources to Combat Violent Crime in East St. Louis

Senator Points to Additional FBI Resources and Major ATF Training Program Taking Place Today

[EAST ST. LOUIS, IL] – Federal law enforcement agencies have begun committing greater attention and resources to the violent crime problem in East St. Louis, which is among the worst in the nation, but more needs to be done to reduce the violence, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today after meeting with the Working Against Violent Elements (WAVE) Task Force.  The task force is a collaboration of federal, state and local agencies which works to combat violent crime in the East St. Louis area and receives funding through the U.S. Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. 


“Residents of East St. Louis suffer from one of the highest violent crime and homicide rates in the country.  It’s not a new problem, but it’s a problem that demands a new solution.  The people living in and raising their families in this community deserve better.  As an East St. Louis native, it pains me to see my old home town in such extreme distress,” Durbin said. 


Today’s meeting with the WAVE Task Force was the most recent in a series of actions Durbin has taken to galvanize federal law enforcement agencies to more aggressively combat the continuing violent crime in East St. Louis – an effort that has started to generate results.


Following a conversation late last year between Durbin and FBI Director Robert Mueller and subsequent inquiries in which Durbin pushed for East St. Louis to be made a high priority for the FBI’s anti-crime efforts, the FBI recently provided its local field office with additional training, mentoring, resources, and staffing in order to enhance and improve the violent crime programs within the office.


Earlier this year, Durbin also met with Andrew Traver, the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Chicago Field Division, and urged that ATF enhance its anti-crime efforts in East St. Louis.  The agency has since increased its focus on investigating violent firearms offenses and gun trafficking in the East St. Louis area in coordination with the WAVE Task Force. In addition, ATF is providing enhanced training to local law enforcement agencies in the East St. Louis area to help them investigate and prosecute gun crimes, including a major training for East St. Louis-area law enforcement that is taking place today.


Federal law enforcement officials have indicated to Durbin that several low-income public housing complexes managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are among the sites in East St. Louis that have seen high levels of criminal activity.  The John DeShields and adjacent John Robinson housing developments alone have a combined population of only about 800 residents, but at least 22 homicides occurred in these developments and the surrounding neighborhood between 2000 and 2010.


Durbin said he believes the federal government has a special obligation to address the disturbing crime rates in those developments as the East St. Louis Housing Authority has been in HUD receivership since 1985.  In the coming weeks, Durbin plans to work with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to ensure HUD is taking enhanced steps to prevent crime and protect the safety of residents in East St. Louis public housing. 


“As receiver for the East St. Louis Housing Authority, HUD must work to gather more information on criminal activity, take further steps to prevent and respond to crime in the housing developments, and prioritize these developments for crime prevention enhancements,” Durbin said.


Although the population of East St. Louis has decreased in recent years, the violent crime and homicide rates in East St. Louis continue to rank among the nation’s highest.  In 2010 alone, there were 31 homicides in East St. Louis and surrounding communities.  In 2009, Illinois State Police statistics show that East St. Louis had a population of less than 29,000 but had 3,642 serious reported crimes including 1,348 aggravated assaults, 905 burglaries, 265 robberies and 43 sexual assaults, amounting to a crime rate of 12,658 crimes per 100,000 residents.  By comparison, in 2009, Chicago had a crime rate of 5,426 crimes per 100,000 residents and the Illinois average was 3,299 crimes per 100,000 residents. 


The WAVE Task Force, which receives funding through the U.S. Department of Justice Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, is a collaboration of federal, state and local agencies that was created to address violent crime in the East St. Louis area.  Key agency participants in the Task Force include FBI, ATF, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, the Illinois State Police, the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois, the East St. Louis Police Department, the St. Clair County Sheriff, and the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office.  Task Force members conduct law enforcement patrols several nights a week throughout East St. Louis.  As of April, the Task Force had made more than 1,900 arrests, seized more than 335 firearms, and produced more than 50 federal prosecutions since it was created in November 2009.