The program was launched on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri, before it was deployed in Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week.
Attorney General William Barr says the operation is needed in those particular cities, as they “have seen disturbing increases in violent crime, particularly homicides,” in recent days.
“For decades, the Department of Justice has achieved significant success when utilizing our anti-violent crime task forces and federal law enforcement agents to enforce federal law and assist American cities that are experiencing upticks in violent crime,” Barr added.
“The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”
Operation Legend is named in honor of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept, on the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.
The initiative entails sending officers with the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to augment the local law enforcement resources in those three cities.
Cleveland, in particular, is seeing a “significant increase” in homicides and shootings in 2020, while homicides in Detroit are up by 31 percent and shootings have increased by 51 percent over the previous year, the Justice Department (DOJ) noted. In stark contrast, Milwaukee’s homicides have increased by 85 percent in 2020, while nonfatal shootings are up about 64 percent, according to the department.
Specifically, the DOJ will send more than 25 investigators to Cleveland to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Ohio and Cleveland Police Department. Forty-two agents will be sent to Detroit, who will work in tandem with the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan and with the Detroit Police Department.
More than 25 agents will be sent to Milwaukee to work alongside the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the agency said.
Last week, President Donald Trump unveiled the operation in remarks at the White House.
“This rampage of violence shocks the conscience of our nation and we will not stand by and watch it happen,” Trump said on July 22. “No mother should ever have to cradle her dead child in her arms simply because politicians refuse to do what is necessary to secure their neighborhood and to secure their city.”
The Trump administration has faced criticism from Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler and that state’s governor, Kate Brown, both Democrats, for sending federal agents to protect the city’s federal courthouse and other property. Portland has seen about eight weeks of rioting and demonstrations.
Trump administration officials have sought to draw a distinction between Operation Legend and the federal response to unrest in Portland.
“They’re coming armed with rocks, bottles, baseball bats, power tools, commercial-grade fireworks, eliciting that violence and targeting their violence on federal courthouses and federal law enforcement officers,” Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf said in remarks to Fox News over the weekend.
“That’s very different than what’s going on in Chicago, places like Chicago, Albuquerque, Kansas City,” he added. “That is where you see normal criminal activity, street crime, what we say regarding gangs and drug dealers.”