Attorney General William Barr announced the initiative on July 8 amid surging crime rates, to begin on the same day in Kansas City. It was expanded two weeks later on July 22 to include Albuquerque, N.M. and Chicago, the latter recently seeing a record high in violent crimes. Operation Legend then expanded to the cities of Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee on July 29. St. Louis and Memphis were included in early August, followed by Indianapolis on Aug. 14.
The attorney general said in August that Operation Legend aims to “save lives, solve crimes, and take violent offenders off our streets before they can claim more victims.” Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Ohio, said in a Fox & Friends interview that federal arrests under Operation Legend dealt with “very violent” fugitives and criminals to get them off the streets of the nine cities where the initiative is in place. The initiative is the latest effort by the department to crack down on violent crime across the country and restore public safety by deploying federal agents and resources to aid local and state law enforcement officers.
In an update posted on its website, the Department of Justice said that 476 suspects have been charged with federal offenses Under Operation Legend, mostly related to firearms and narcotics. Figures from the program’s launch date to Aug. 31 showed that Chicago had the most number of suspects with federal charges at 103, followed by 99 suspects in Kansas City. Aside from the arrests, authorities also seized more than 544 firearms and different kinds of drugs including cocaine, fentanyl and heroin.
Named after four-year-old shooting victim LeGend Taliferro, Operation Legend aimed to slash violent crime rates in major U.S. cities. Taliferro was shot and killed while sleeping in his Kansas City, Mo. home; a suspect in his June 29 killing has since been arrested.
Attorney General Barr mentioned the sudden increase in violent crimes, specifically homicides and fatal shootings, was caused by a number of reasons – including pent-up aggression brought about by local and state quarantine orders, and efforts to vilify and defund law enforcement units. He further added that Operation Legend is the federal government’s fundamental response to the increased crime rate by supporting and strengthening police officers instead of “demonizing and defunding” them.
Some cities have reported a decrease in their crime rates after Operation Legend was launched, among them Kansas City – where it was first implemented. In an Aug. 25 report, the Kansas City Police Department said that there was a 30 percent decrease in crime rates from July 8 to Aug. 23 compared to a six-week period that ran from May 26 to July 7. Police Chief Richard Smith said: “While we can’t say Operation Legend is the cause of this decrease, there’s certainly a correlation.”
Despite the promising nature of Operation Legend, some local leaders had initial resistance to the program – citing recent instances of federal troops putting riots in different cities under control. However, Attorney General Barr noted that the initiative is focused on the “traditional work that law enforcement does” and had nothing to do with the civil unrest and rioting in different U.S. cities.
In response to comments about Operation Legend being a form of “federal overreach”, U.S. Attorney Herdman answered that the program has the support of the community, local leaders and local police departments. The more than 2000 federal arrests done under the initiative served as proof that people support Operation Legend, he added.
The launch of Operation Legend is a much-needed helping hand for police officers dealing with violent crimes, despite recent anti-law enforcement activity and police defunding. A number of law enforcement units in major U.S. cities such as the Los Angeles, Seattle, and Austin, Texas police departments have seen their budgets slashed. Meanwhile, the New York Police Department increased its weekend patrols and reassigned officers for this purpose after overtime pay budgets were reduced.
Find out more news about Operation Legend and other law enforcement responses to violent inner-city crimes at PoliceViolence.news.