Operation Legend Leads to 2,000 Arrests, Including Almost 150 Homicide Suspects: DOJ

Operation Legend Leads to 2,000 Arrests, Including Almost 150 Homicide Suspects: DOJ
Attorney General William Barr delivers remarks on Operation Legend at the White House in Washington on July 22, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Operation Legend, the federal government’s initiative to drive down violent crime in major inner cities, has led to more than 2,000 arrests, including nearly 150 for homicide, since its launch in July, the Justice Department (DOJ) stated in an update.

Of those arrested, 476 have been charged with federal offenses, with 249 of those arrests being related to firearms offenses and 185 related to drug crimes. The remaining individuals are charged with various other offenses, the department stated.

The figures represent the latest numbers of arrests made since the operation began on July 8 through Aug. 31. Also in that period, more than 544 firearms and more than seven kilograms (15 pounds) of fentanyl, 14 kilograms (31 pounds) of heroin, 12 kilograms (26 pounds) of cocaine, and 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of methamphetamine have been seized as part of the operation.

“We are not just arresting people for low-level warrants here,” Justin Herdman, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, told Fox News on Sept. 3. “We’re talking about very violent fugitives, very violent criminals and we’re getting them off the streets of these nine cities across the country.”

Operation Legend is the latest major law enforcement program by the DOJ to crack down on violent crime across the country. It began amid surging crime rates in major metropolitan cities.

The operation began in Kansas City, Missouri, and has since been expanded to eight other cities, including Chicago; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee; and St. Louis. It involves surging federal agents and resources to inner 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 in June; a suspect has since been arrested.

Attorney General William Barr previously said the program’s mission is to “save lives, solve crimes, and take violent offenders off our streets before they can claim more victims.”

Many major metropolitan cities have recently seen a disturbing uptick of violent crime, especially 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.

Since the program’s launch, some cities have seen significant drops in violent crime, such as Kansas City. The city’s police department stated on Aug. 25 that overall violent crime had decreased by 30 percent when comparing six weeks of crime statistics prior to the operation with current data. Homicides went from 33 cases between May 6 and July 7 to 28 cases between July 8 and Aug. 23—a 15 percent decrease.

Non-fatal shootings also fell to 84 incidents from 112 over the same comparable period—a 25 percent fall.

“While we can’t say Operation LeGend is the cause of this decrease, there’s certainly a correlation,” Kansas City Police Chief Richard Smith said in a statement.

In Kansas City, authorities have charged 99 individuals with federal crimes. Among those, 28 have been charged with drug-related offenses, 60 have been charged with firearms-related offenses, and 11 have been charged with other violent crime.

Other cities have also seen a similar trend: 103 federal arrests in Chicago; 35 in Albuquerque; 54 in Cleveland; 41 in Detroit; 15 in Milwaukee; 89 in St. Louis; 14 in Memphis; and 26 in Indianapolis.

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

“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.

“Rather than demonizing or defunding police, we are supporting and strengthening our law enforcement partners at the state and local level.”

Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
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