US Attorney John Lausch on Chicago's crime challenges, fight against violence

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Thursday, November 18, 2021
US Attorney John Lausch on challenges fighting Chicaog area crime
Chicago's top federal crime fighter John Lausch sat down for a wide-ranging and wide-open conversation face-to-face with ABC7 Chicago's I-Team reporter Chuck Goudie.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When you sit across the table from U.S. Attorney John Lausch one word is sown through the discussion: accountability.

Chicago's leading federal lawman preaches, teaches and abides by accountability 101. It's not only accused wrongdoers who should be accountable, he said, but also prosecutors. That includes himself.

"We need to hold more people accountable, you know, through you know, investigation and prosecution," Lausch said. "And then we also need to get the word out that we are holding people accountable for those crimes."

The I-Team interview with Lausch was meant to focus on an influx of automatic weapons in criminal hands. But the 51-year-old is passionate about helping Chicago deal with the wider crime surge that encompasses shootings, murders and street violence.

"Our job as a prosecutor is pretty simple. Like we have to be fair first and foremost, we have to be tough when it's you know, when it's appropriate, and we need to be merciful when it's warranted. But, we have to be fair all the time. And part of that is making sure that we're holding people accountable because the community depends upon us to do that," said Lausch.

Lausch said he doesn't see Chicago on a good path, considering the amount of crime in the city at this time.

"Yeah. So I don't know," He said. "It seems like it's been it's been a time where every day you do wake up and you see another shooting, a carjacking, something else that, you know, that that does kind of shock your conscience a little bit right and really, I think I even started to see this even before the pandemic hit."

With those "conscience-shocking" crimes, Lausch emphasized all Chicago area prosecutors have to ensure that wrongdoers are being held accountable.

"I mean, you can't tell people in Gresham, you know, that the gang member who's always carrying a gun who has prior convictions and is walking around with a gun in their waistband is a non-violent offender, nobody in that neighborhood is going to buy that," he said.

When Lausch was sworn in four years ago, he followed a blue ribbon legacy of federal prosecutors, spanning decades; names including Thompson and Webb, Valukas and Fitzgerald. Each is known for a different kind of big case from the mob to public and judicial corruption.

Lausch has a more grassroots target: violent street crime driven by drugs, gangs and guns-with a growing list of people who should expect to be held accountable