Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday that authorities have made more than 1,400 arrests as a part of “Operation Legend,” a Justice Department anti-crime initiative that launched with some controversy because it coincided with a separate, aggressive federal response to violence at racial-justice demonstrations.
Barr made the announcement at a news conference in Kansas City, Mo., where the Justice Department first launched the operation in July. The initiative, which dispatched more than 1,000 federal agents to help local law enforcement investigate violent crime, has since been expanded to eight other U.S. cities: Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis and Indianapolis.
In any other administration, the program might have been noncontroversial. Local law enforcement often works with federal authorities to investigate all manner of crimes.
But President Donald Trump announced its expansion last month just as tension hit a boiling point between protesters and federal law enforcement in Portland, Ore., and he took aim at Democratic leaders who he asserted were failing to keep their cities safe.
Barr said at the news conference Wednesday that he worried 2020 could be a bad year for violent crime and pointed to what he viewed as a variety of causes, including courts releasing violent offenders rather than holding them without bail, “pent-up aggression prompted by state and local quarantine orders” and “the efforts that we’ve recently seen to demonize police and to defund their work.”
“Operation Legend is the heart of the federal government’s response to this upturn in violent crime,” Barr said. “Its mission is to save lives, solve crimes and take violent offenders off the streets before they can claim more victims. Rather than demonizing and defunding our police, we are supporting and strengthening our law enforcement partners at the state and local level.”
In a news release, the Justice Department said that, of those arrested, more than 200 had been charged with federal crimes, most for alleged drug and weapons offenses. Others were taken into custody for violating state and local laws, the department said.
Barr said at the news conference that more than 90 “suspected killers” had been taken off the streets. The operation was named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was fatally shot in Kansas City in late June. Police made an arrest in that case last week.