Inside Operation Legend with the DOJ prosecutor in charge of it
Justin Herdman, U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Ohio, on how the initiative helps combat crime in U.S. cities.
The federal government through Operation Legend has "reversed" Chicago's surge in violence, making more than 500 arrests and charging 124 people with federal criminal charges since it started, officials announced.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr said during a Wednesday morning press conference in the Windy City that the federal program had helped decrease Chicago's murder rate to the lowest it's been "at any time" since April, cutting the rate "roughly in half since before the operation."
"The results of those actions speak for themselves: over the first five weeks of Operation Legend in Chicago, murders dropped by 50% over the previous five weeks. August ultimately saw a 45% decrease in murders compared to July, and a 35% decrease compared to June," he said.
A woman kneels on the ground outside the University of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital where an 8-year-old girl was taken after being killed in a shooting during the Labor Day weekend Monday, Sep. 7, 2020, in Chicago. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
At least 400 federal agents have been assigned to the Illinois city as part of Operation Legend – roughly 200 of whom were already working there but whose roles were repurposed, and the remainder being deployed from elsewhere – and over one-thousand in total have been dispatched nationwide.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, and Chicago Police Superintendent David O. Brown were not in attendance for Wednesday's press conference, though they were invited, Barr said.
Barr added that the decrease in Chicago's murder rate cannot only be attributed to Operation Legend but noted: "I believe that it is an important part of that drop."
"Operation Legend's success is perhaps most dramatic here in Chicago," Barr said. "When the operation was announced on July 22, homicides in the city were up 51% over 2019. Over the previous weekend, more than 60 people had been shot in Chicago, with over a dozen fatalities."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, despite a decrease in violence during the month of August, murders have actually increased by 50% so far this year compared to last.
Throughout the country, more than 2,500 people have been arrested and 600 are facing federal charges.
"Bringing federal charges is significant because defendants arrested for violent crimes are often detained before trial, unlike state defendants who are too often released," he said. "In addition, federal defendants will face serious sentences if convicted, with a real possibility of long-term imprisonment … knowing that, many of the arrestees cooperate with the government and lead to even more violent offenders."
Operation Legend is an ongoing government effort to combat surging crime in parts of the country, officials announced Wednesday.
MURDER CHARGE ANNOUNCED IN KILLING OF LEGEND TALIFERRO, 4, WHOSE DEATH SPARKED OPERATION LEGEND
President Donald Trump holds a photo of LeGend Taliferro as he speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The operation began in July, shortly after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, for whom the program is named, was fatally wounded in Kansas City, Mo., while he was sleeping after he was struck by a bullet meant for somebody else.
"The increase in violence that has plagued Chicago and other cities is what prompted the department to launch Operation Legend two months ago in Kansas City, Mo.," Barr continued. "The purpose of the operation was to make clear that his life mattered, his name should be remembered and other innocent victims like him, including the 8-year-old girl killed in Chicago on Labor Day, should not suffer such senseless death."
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In addition to Kansas City, where it was started, Operation Legend has been expanded across eight cities: Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee and St Louis.
Barr said violent crime in Kansas City decreased by 32% since the operation's launch, with murder dropping by 18% and aggravated assault down 47%.
St. Louis has seen a 47% decrease in murders since Operation Legend began four weeks ago, Barr said.
Murders in Detroit have dropped by more than 25%, while nonfatal shorings, he said, have decreased by more than 45% since the operation began seven weeks ago.
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