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President Trump says he’s sending federal troops to Chicago to address the gun violence. Buzz60

In this Aug. 7, 2016, photo, Chicago police investigate a scene in Chicago where gunfire at a birthday party left a man dead and a woman injured.(Photo: Ashlee Rezin, AP)

CHICAGO — The Trump administration announced Friday that it is dispatching an additional 20 ATF agents permanently to the nation’s third-largest city to stem gun violence that’s left more than 1,000 dead over the last 18 months.

With the additional agents, the agency presence will increase to about 61 agents from 41 in Chicago. The Justice Department and city also announced they have formed a joint strike force of federal and local law enforcement officials to ramp up prosecution of gun-related crimes. 

“The Trump Administration will not let the bloodshed go on; we cannot accept these levels of violence,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The announcement comes after months of President Trump vowing federal intervention to stem the plague of gun violence in Chicago. 

“Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!” Trump posted on Twitter ahead of Sessions’ announcement.

Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!

Chicago Police officials say the strike force will be a specialized team of city cops, federal agents and Illinois state troopers who will work exclusively on stemming the flow of illegally possessed guns and targeting repeat gun offenders.

A key part of the strike force calls for prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office and Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to work closely with city police and federal agents on developing a prosecution strategy for targeting repeat gun offenders.

The idea of a strike force was developed by Celinez Nunez, the special agent-in-charge of ATF’s Chicago office, after Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson met with Justice Department officials earlier this year to seek assistance.

Chicago recorded more than 760 murders last year, more than New York and Los Angeles combined.

The first-half of 2017 has been nearly as difficult with the city recording 320 murders and 1360 shooting incidents through Thursday, according to police department data. At the same point last year, the city had tallied 322 murders and 1584 shooting incidents.

Trump has repeatedly railed on Chicago for its handling of the violence, referring to the situation as “horrible carnage” and “out of control.” He’s also previously warned without any specificity that he’d “send in the feds” and “solve the problem for them” if city officials didn’t take action.

Joel Levin, the acting U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, said his office prosecuted more gun-related crimes in 2016 than anytime in the last decade. Federal prosecutors have already exceeded last year’s federal gun prosecution tally in the first half of 2017, he said.

Even before Friday’s announcement, the ATF announced they had dispatched a mobile high-tech ballistics lab to Chicago that allows analysts to test fire guns and analyze shell casings at the scene of a crime.

The new tool, known as the NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Information Network) van, is still in the test phase and is set to leave Chicago at the end of July. But Chicago ATF officials say they are lobbying to keep it here, where it has already been used 96 times since arriving in early June.

“I am working on a briefing paper to see if we can get the justification to allow it to stay,” said Timothy Jones, assistant ATF agent-in-charge.

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Chicago officials welcomed the creation of the strike force and added ATF agents, but seemed reluctant to credit Trump.

Chicago Police First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro noted that city officials began engaging the Justice Department in the final days of the Obama administration about the possibility of bolstering the ATF’s presence in the city.

City Hall officials said that talks with the Justice Department about adding agents began last summer.

“Six months ago we made it clear that we would welcome additional federal support, and six months later we appreciate the 20 new ATF agents that are now arriving,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “If the president was as interested in taking action on public safety as he is in Tweeting about it, we would have seen these resources months ago.”

Emanuel and police officials have repeatedly made the case that a large part of the problem in Chicago is that criminals have easy access to firearms and that gun laws don’t do enough to dissuade felons from picking up a weapon once they’re back on the street. (Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, signed into law legislation in Illinois that would stiffen gun crime sentencing guidelines to a minimum of seven years from three years for repeat offenders and require judges to put in writing their rationale if they depart from the new guideline.)

The White House on Friday pushed back against the notion that Chicago’s murder problem has to do with easy access to guns.

 “I think that crime is probably driven more by morality than anything else,”  said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Follow USA TODAY Chicago correspondent Aamer Madhani on Twitter: @AamerISmad