Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday encouraged investment in law enforcement as he announced that Operation Legend, a Trump administration initiative to combat violent crime that started in July, has led to more than 5,000 arrests.
“Violent crime is solvable. It’s not something people have to live with at the levels they’re living with it,” Barr said at a roundtable with law enforcement in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “And here in Albuquerque, Albuquerque has a violent crime rate that’s between three and four times the national average. That’s unacceptable in any American city, and it is a solvable problem.”
Barr said that the arrests involve more than 247 homicide suspects, more than 2,000 seizures of firearms, as well as the seizure of nearly 22 kilos of heroin, more than 15 kilos of fentanyl that could have dealt more than 7.5 million fatal doses, more than 120 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 28 kilos of cocaine, and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds.
About 1,057 people among those arrested have been charged with federal offenses. Of those, about 568 have been charged with firearm offenses and 411 were charged with drug-related crimes.
“People have to remember that in 1992, violent crime was twice the level it is today—the highest level we’ve ever had in the United States in 1992,” Barr said at the roundtable. “But we finally got smart and we realized that most predatory violence is committed by a relatively small group of repeat offenders, of chronic offenders, and whenever they’re on the streets, they will victimize people. And the first priority of law enforcement has to be to get these people off the streets, and get them into prison, and to protect people.”
He added, “And when you do that, crime goes down. It has worked every time. It is a tried and true solution to violent crime. Stop the revolving door and keep the chronic offenders off the street. Our problem back in 1992 was the problem we’re seeing here in Albuquerque today, which is revolving door justice at the state system.”
Operation Legend was launched on July 8 to address the increase in homicides and violent crime across the United States, especially in hard-hit cities. The operation involves stepping up cooperation between federal law enforcement agencies, and state and local law enforcement officials.
The operation is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he was asleep in his home in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 29. It has since spread to nine cities across the country: Kansas City, Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, and Indianapolis.
Barr told the roundtable that since 1992, many states have reformed their criminal justice systems to strengthen them, but there has been some “backsliding.”
“People forget what it was like when crime was twice the level it is today, and we can’t let that happen. We can’t accept the level of crime today. We have to continue to push down violent crime and get these predators off the street,” Barr said.
Barr had noted in early September that Operation Legend was seeing success, with homicide and shooting incidents on the decrease. At the roundtable, he again highlighted the importance of investing in law enforcement to ensure public safety.
“The people will get what they pay for in law enforcement. If you want a professional effective police force, you have to make the investment in that, not defund the police force, but make an investment in the police force,” he said.
“And if you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the streets, then you have to start paying attention to who you vote for to retain as judges, to who you make [district attorney], to whom you make mayor,” Barr continued. “And I’m saying this across the board, not just to the people in Albuquerque, it makes a difference. Because in many places in our country, the political establishment is not providing the support to law enforcement that it should.”
FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said at the roundtable that Barr had directed all federal law enforcement components in the operation, which includes the FBI, the ATF, the U.S. Marshal Service, and the DEA, as well as drawing assistance from the HSI of the Department of Homeland Security.
“With all those different components, we all have different, but very complimentary, techniques and tactics that help bring the federal resources to bear on what is oftentimes a localized problem, but what can also spread throughout the various states and cities,” Bowdich explains.
“We’ve established tips and hotlines, we’re using rewards programs, we’re using digital forensics, mapping trends to show where these crime problems really are surfacing in the various communities throughout this country,” he added. “I also look at it very much as a one team, one fight issue, and we have to show resilience, fortitude, and again, the Attorney General oftentimes uses the word will. And that’s what it takes.”