ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday the federal government’s efforts to crack down on violent crime in Albuquerque and other U.S. cities is paying dividends and community support of law enforcement is an important part of getting chronic offenders off the streets and behind bars.
Barr and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich visited New Mexico to provide an update on Operation Legend, which was launched earlier this year by the Trump administration. It's named after LeGend Taliferro, a Kansas City boy who was shot and killed in June while he slept in his home.
The operation, built around joint task forces comprised of federal and local officers, has taken advantage of everything from tougher federal drug and racketeering statutes to digital forensics, mapping technology, hotlines and reward programs to begin chipping away at the surge in crime that some cities have experienced in recent years.
Officials reported that Kansas City has seen a 30% reduction in violent crime, including a reduction in homicides and armed robberies. Overall, the Justice Department reported that the operation since its inception has netted more than 3,500 arrests, with more than 800 defendants facing federal charges that often come with more severe consequences.
More than 100 people have been arrested in Albuquerque, a city that Barr said has seen violent crime rates between three and four times the national average.
“Violent crime is solvable. It’s not something people have to live with at the levels they’re living with it,” he said.
Targeting repeat offenders and justice reforms aimed at ending what Barr referred to as a “revolving door” are among the tools to curb surges in crime. He added that the support of local leaders, prosecutors and judges is part of the equation.
“People will get what they pay for in law enforcement. If you want a professional effective police force, you have to make the investment in that — not defund the police force but make an investment in the police force,” he said. “And if you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the streets, then you have to start paying attention to who you vote for.”
President Donald Trump has seized on the operation as public safety has been among the themes on the campaign trail.
Federal cooperation with local authorities in New Mexico is nothing new, but Democrat leaders voiced concerns when the operation was first announced in July, fearing that federal agents would target protesters. Authorities say the focus has been on drug and firearm cases and other violent crimes.
Federal officials also said Wednesday that the city of Albuquerque has yet to accept a nearly $10 million grant that was awarded earlier this year for hiring an additional 40 police officers. However, city officials took issue with that claim, saying the City Council passed a resolution to accept the funding and Mayor Tim Keller signed it weeks ago.