Two months ago, President Trump and Attorney General Barr announced a surge in federal law-enforcement agents to cities that were plagued by skyrocketing violent crime. The ramp-up was called “Operation Legend,” in honor of LeGend Taliferro, a four-year-old boy who was shot to death while sleeping in his home in Kansas City. On Monday, Barr provided an update on what the operation has yielded so far.
I explained when Legend was announced that the feds’ strategy did not involve posses of agents descending uninvited by the states, as some reporting and Democratic commentary suggested. It was a beefing up of existing federal-state task forces. For decades, these joint arrangements have targeted gang and drug crime.
The plan called for the contribution of more FBI, DEA, and other federal law-enforcement agents, along with the provision of funds to make it easier for states and municipalities to contribute more police. The arrangement, in which the state and local officers are often deputized as special federal agents, gives investigators the option to bring the people they’ve arrested to either state or federal court.
The latter option is especially helpful in multi-defendant cases: Under federal law it is easier to prove conspiracy, the penalties are stiffer, and the pretrial supervision is stricter — demanding bail conditions or denial of bail for defendants who endanger the community or are real flight risks.
For example, in the Legend update on Monday, Barr touted the prosecution of a 26-defendant drug-trafficking gang in Milwaukee. Arrests were made starting Monday morning. In just that day’s seizures, 33 guns were recovered, along with $170,000 in cash, and quantities of heroin that were large by street-level distribution standards, as well as cocaine and marijuana. One of the alleged ringleaders is said to be a Mexican Posse gang member who runs a nationwide drug trafficking network.
The Justice Department elaborates that, after originating in Kansas City, Chicago, and Albuquerque, Operation Legend has been expanded to Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, and Indianapolis. More than 3,500 arrests have been made, about 815 of them federal. Approximately 200 of the total arrests involve homicide cases. Of the 815 federal prosecutions, over 440 charge firearms crimes, and over 300 involve drug crimes. The penalties for these offenses are severe, especially when they occur together (as usually happens in gang cases).
The DOJ further reports that “more than 1,000 firearms have been seized; and nearly 18 kilos of heroin, more than 11 kilos of fentanyl (enough to deliver more than five million fatal doses), more than 94 kilos of methamphetamine, nearly 14 kilos of cocaine, and more than $6.5 million in drug proceeds have been seized.”
These could be significant results. How significant can only be determined when we see whether crime rates in these cities ebb. That will take some time, but when crime spikes, it is not materially suppressed unless the criminals are convinced that anti-crime operations are going to be sustained.
The DOJ provided a press release (here) which breaks down Operation Legend cases by city.