Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday that Operation Legend — a Department of Justice program designed to supplement major city police departments with federal agents and resources amid an unprecedented national crime wave — has cut the Chicago murder rate “roughly in half” since launch and has “reversed” a surge of violence that was leaving dozens killed.
Barr told reporters, at a press conference held in Chicago, that Operation Legend has led to 500 individual arrests and has charged 124 people who federal crimes, according to Fox News. Those charges range from firearms and narcotics trafficking to bank fraud.
“Throughout the country, more than 2500 people have been arrested and more than 600 are facing federal charges as part of the operation, an ongoing government effort to combat surging crime in parts of the country,” the outlet continued, citing official numbers announced Wednesday.
Operation Legend launched in Chicago in early July, after the city experienced a shocking spike in shootings and homicides following the release of coronavirus-related lockdowns. Gang violence on the city’s south and west sides also spiked, leaving a number of minors — including several children five years of age and younger — dead or severely injured.
The program, which now operates in more than a dozen cities, pairs agents and resources from the FBI, U.S. Marshals, ATF, and DEA with major city police department investigators to help handle organized crime and, specifically, widespread gun violence and illegal weapons and narcotics trafficking.
In Chicago alone, 400 federal agents are assigned to the Operation Legend task force, though around 200 of those agents were already working in the city prior to the program’s launch. The city also received around $9 million in federal funds to boost community-oriented policing projects and around $3.5 million to support anti-crime operations already in existence, per local media.
“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,” Barr noted.
The Justice Department’s Twitter account noted the statistic in a bar graph:
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) September 9, 2020
Gun violence in Chicago is still a major problem. Despite Operation Legend’s achievements, the city’s August murder rate was the highest since 2016 and is only lower in comparison to June’s and July’s murder rates, which set city records. So far this summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Chicago has seen 342 people killed in gun violence and 1,607 wounded. That’s up significantly from 2019 when 172 people were killed over the summer and 890 wounded.
Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot initially declined President Donald Trump’s offer of federal assistance in handling the city’s crime spike but later agreed to help on the condition that it did not look like federal intervention in Portland, Oregon, where the Department of Justice sent an elite, militarized unit from Customs and Border Protection to guard federal property against rioters.
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