Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday that there have been nearly 1,500 arrests across eight U.S. cities thus far under the “Operation Legend” law enforcement initiative launched roughly six weeks ago and highlighted by President Donald Trump in his reelection campaign.
Of those arrests, according to the Justice Department, approximately 217 defendants have been charged with federal crimes, most of which are drug and gun-related. Barr said investigators have also assisted state and local authorities in bringing homicide charges against more than 90 defendants.
“That’s more than 90 suspected killers who might still be on the streets without Operation Legend,” Barr said at a news conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Officials at the news conference could not say how many of the 1,485 individuals arrested under Operation Legend still remain in custody. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also says it has seized nearly 400 firearms since the start of the operation.
“Our work is just getting started, there is no more important mission for the Department of Justice than keeping our communities safe,” Barr said.
Barr launched Operation Legend early last month, telling ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas in an exclusive interview that the initiative was named in honor of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro — who was shot and killed in his sleep on June 29 in Kansas City.
Kansas City Police announced the arrest of a suspect in Taliferro’s murder last week.
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Taliferro’s mother spoke briefly at the press conference where she thanked the investigators who helped track down her son’s alleged killer.
“We don’t have our son, but we have a weight lifted off of us,” Taliferro said.
Trump began a White House news conference last week by holding up a photo of the boy.
Local leaders have in several instances been initially resistant to the administration’s announcements that it would be deploying federal investigators to cities seeing surges in violent crime, citing scenes from Seattle and Portland of troops in fatigues and Trump’s election-year threats to crack down on cities run by Democrats.
Barr has noted that Operation Legend, however, is separate from those deployments in response to unrest and that the dozens of investigators being dispatched to the cities are instead more focused on assisting federal and state authorities with probing violent crimes.
“There has been a lot of confusion in the media, some of it not unintentional, conflating two different aspects of law enforcement,” Barr said. “One is dealing with civil unrest, rioting, and the other is the classical traditional work that law enforcement does.”
During the news conference, Barr addressed the recent uptick of violent crime across several parts of the country, at one point saying, without providing evidence, that he believed it might be a result of a combination between “pent up aggression” to state and local quarantine orders, the “premature release of dangerous criminals by the courts” during the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Defund the Police” movement.
Barr added that he expected there will be an increase in the national violent crime rate this year after it saw decreases for the last two years.
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