by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Hoping to crack down on the pipeline of illegal guns into Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced the city will be setting up a $1 million reward fund for tips that help police seize illegal weapons.

“We are setting up a structure for people to provide tips — anonymous, if you so desire — to point us to the presence of illegal firearms. If they are in a house, down the block, in a car, in a secret stash; we are calling on our residents to overcome your fears, to no longer be hesitant to report the presence of illegal firearms,” Lightfoot said.

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The mayor said more details about the reward fund, such as how much specific rewards would be for individual tips, are yet to come as part of a series of steps she plans to announce in the coming days for addressing violent crime in Chicago, which she acknowledged has many people afraid to leave their homes.

“Gun violence, make no mistake about it, is the number one issue plaguing the city in this moment. My daily focus never wavers from this crisis,” she said.

Lightfoot said, unless Chicagoans feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods, “nothing else matters.”

“Too many people – especially those in historically violent neighborhoods on the South and West sides – are just plain scared; scared to come out, scared to congregate, enjoy the warmth of a summer day or night, for fear that ordinary moments will become the scenes of tragedy,” she said. “We’ve experienced too much bloodshed in this city, too many funerals, and too much trauma.”

While Lightfoot said shootings and murders this year are down slightly from 2020, she said a cloud of violence that hangs over our heads blocks out the sunshine,” and the city needs to take creative steps to address gun violence.

She said that’s what prompted her to ask her budget director to set aside $1 million from the city’s corporate fund to offer rewards for tips leading to seizures of illegal guns.

The mayor said the Chicago Police Department so far this year has seized more than 6,300 illegal guns, on pace to break last year’s record of more than 11,000 seizures.

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“We’ll be over 12,000 firearms taken by CPD this year, which will dwarf New York and L.A. combined, over double. Why is that so? Because there are too many guns on our streets,” she said. “This moment that we are in demands each of us to dig down deeper, to step up … to overcome our fears. We need everyone’s help to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to address this horrible plague of illegal firearms, and my hope is that this million-dollar reward fund incentivizes people to step up, to speak out, and to help us reclaim our streets from the shooters and the violence.”

Lightfoot said the $1 million reward program will run through the Chicago Police Department’s tip line, but she didn’t provide details on how it would work.

“We’re going to work through the details, and we’ll let you know about those as soon as they’re worked out,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve got to incentivize to think about what’s happening with guns. I think that there are a lot of people who know things that are happening in the neighborhoods, but are too fearful to come forward. They’re concerned about the consequences for them or their family.”

Chicago and other major cities have been struggling with a surge in violent crime since the start of the pandemic.

Shootings and murders in Chicago surged 50% in 2020 compared to 2019, and have only dropped of slightly so far this year.

June 2021 saw a double digit decrease in murders compared to June 2020, marking the third month in a row that Chicago saw a decline.

While shootings and murders this year are down from 2020, when compared to just before the pandemic — in 2018 and 2019 — they are still significantly higher.

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“This crisis demands bold and creative action. It demands more of each of us, and as your mayor, it demands more of me. I willingly and unapologetically accept this challenge,” Lightfoot said.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff