The mid-1990s was the height of gang violence, when police logged hundreds of shootings and around two dozen murders per year. Funeral parlors refused to hold services for slain teens, fearing, with good reason, that reprisal gang attacks would come at the gravesides. The local cops, meanwhile, were moving from shooting to shooting so quickly they could hardly keep up, much less close cases. There were so many shell casings at some crime scenes, the old-timers joke, that police started kicking them into the sewers to avoid the crime lab paperwork. "It became so routine," says Police Chief Greg Thomas. "It was shooting after shooting after shooting with no way to break the cycle."
So, is Illinois a "failed state"? Not sure this is really the case. So, how exactly did the ATF deal with the problem in Illinois and reduce the violence.
Gunrunners. The strategy the ATF employed, in concert with local police and federal prosecutors, is one it is using increasingly. Federal agents spend their time on stakeouts, undercover busts, and working informants. They call on regional SWAT teams from the ATF to capture their most high-risk targets. The focus on major gunrunners has made it more difficult for gangs to regularly get their hands on dependable weaponry, experts say. As violence declines, local police and social workers can step in.