DOJ Says More Than 200 Face Federal Charges Under Operation Legend

DOJ Says More Than 200 Face Federal Charges Under Operation Legend
U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable discussion in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington on June 15, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Janita Kan
More than 200 people have been charged with federal crimes among the nearly 1,500 people arrested as part of an initiative aimed to stem violent crime in major inner cities, the Justice Department (DOJ) stated on Aug. 19.

The figures represent the latest numbers of law enforcement actions taken since the start of Operation Legend in early July, which has since been expanded to numerous cities around the country, Attorney General William Barr said.

As part of the operation, about 217 people were charged with federal crimes and nearly 400 firearms have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Barr said. The nearly 1,500 people arrested were mostly arrested for violent state crimes, which include more than 90 homicides.

Numbers from Indianapolis, which was added to the program just last week, aren’t included, the DOJ stated.

Over the past few weeks, the DOJ announced several moves to show its commitment to cracking down on violent crime across the country. That led to Operation Legend, a law enforcement program in which federal resources are surged to inner U.S. cities to assist local and state law enforcement officials to tackle violent crime and restore public safety.

The program was named for 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while sleeping in his home in Kansas City, Missouri, in June.

The operation, which began in Kansas City, has since been expanded to eight other cities, including Chicago; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Louis.

“Operation Legend is the heart of the federal government’s response to this uptick in violent crime,” Barr said during a press conference in Kansas City on Aug. 19. “Its mission is to save lives, solve crimes, and take violent offenders off our streets before they can claim more victims. Rather than demonizing or defunding police, we are supporting and strengthening our law enforcement partners at the state and local level.”

Many major metropolitan cities have recently seen a disturbing uptick of violent crimes, especially in homicides and nonfatal shootings. For example, in Chicago, there were 440 homicides and 2,240 people shot between January and July. In the same time period in 2019, the number of homicides was at 290 with 1,480 shootings.

Similarly in Indianapolis, homicides went up by more than 51 percent and nonfatal shootings rose by more than 34 percent, the department stated on Aug. 14.

Barr said the spike in violent crime is likely caused by pent-up aggression prompted by state and local quarantine orders, and efforts to demonize police and defund their work.

Since the initiative’s launch, 43 people in Kansas City have been charged with federal charges, while 17 people were arrested for state homicide charges in the city. Sixty-one have been charged in Chicago, 16 in Albuquerque, 32 in Cleveland, 22 in Detroit, 11 in Milwaukee, 25 in St. Louis, and seven in Memphis.

Many of these individuals have been charged with firearm- or drug-related offenses such as being a felon in possession of a firearm, being in possession of a firearm in furtherance of violent crime, federal drug trafficking, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Barr says bringing federal charges is helpful in keeping violent criminals off the streets as the federal system is more effective in keeping violent suspects in custody pending the trial of their case.

“In many states, it is very hard now today to keep violent criminals in pretrial detention. They’re just let right out on the street again. But in the federal system, we have a better ability to hold on to violent offenders, keep them in custody, pending disposition of their case,” he said.

“This is critical for community policing,” he added, saying that communities won’t feel comfortable with working with police if they feel criminals are going to be released back out on the streets within hours of being arrested.

Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith said during the press conference that his department’s partnership with federal agents has been “absolutely making a difference” in solving cases.

“I know this morning as we were going through some things with the Attorney General, one thing became noticeable as we walked through our cases is that we wouldn’t have solved the cases as timely as we had and we wouldn’t have suspects in custody without our federal partnerships,” Smith said.

Kenneth Gray, a lecturer at the University of New Haven criminal justice department and a retired special agent in the FBI, said a federal task force approach to violent crime isn’t new, but local police can sometimes be overwhelmed by violent crime and require assistance.

“When asked, the federal government law enforcement agencies can provide resources to assist, to include manpower. Federal law enforcement can use federal violations and tools to conduct investigations that may not be available to local law enforcement,” Gray told The Epoch Times.

He said that when the FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the ATF are sent to work alongside local police officers, it provides them with manpower and databases. For example, the ATF can trace guns found in searches or at crime scenes, Gray said.

At the time of its launch, Operation Legend faced resistance from numerous cities, as it was rolled out at a time when the Trump administration was facing widespread criticism for sending federal agents to Portland, Oregon, to quell rioting around a federal courthouse.

The administration has sought to differentiate the two operations, saying that the federal deployment to Portland was to protect federal property, while Operation Legend is an effort to fight violent crime.