AG William Barr says ‘Operation Legend’ led to drop in murders in Chicago; Lightfoot credits CPD

Chicago News

CHICAGO — U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited Chicago to tout the impact of “Operation Legend” Wednesday, saying the program which deployed federal agents to nine major cities helped reduced crime most dramatically in Chicago.

Under Operation Legend, Chicago received 400 federal agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshalls and Homeland Security along with over $12 million to hire more CPD personnel and technical assistance.  

According to Barr, since Operation Legend started in Chicago in late July there have been over 500 arrests for crimes like homicide, sexual assault and robbery, while 124 people are now facing federal charges for drug and weapons offenses. He said Chicago also saw the lowest number of murders in August since April.

“I’m pleased to report that Operation Legend is working, crime is down and order is being restored to this great American city,” Barr said. “The bottom line is that Operation Legend has played a critical role in cutting Chicago’s murder rate, roughly in half since before the operation.”

While Barr declared the program a success, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called his claims “factually inaccurate.”

Instead, Lightfoot credits Chicago police and changes they’ve made in policing strategies for the downward trend of murders that saw near record highs this summer.  While she said she is appreciative of the federal help, the mayor pointed out additional Federal agents didn’t arrive until August 3.

“We’re absolutely leaning into those federal relationships, but the cause and effect that Attorney General Barr tried to make today, I think the fact is, don’t bear that out, not yet,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said she was not invited to Barr’s press conference Wednesday, and instead sent him a letter emphasizing what she felt the Department of Justice could do to help the city fight crime. 

When asked if politics kept her and CPD Superintendent David Brown from attending today’s press conference, Lightfoot said she didn’t want to be “used as a prop.”

Lightfoot initially told the Trump administration “thanks, but no thanks,” fearing Chicago would see federal agents in full gear on the streets of the city — similar to Portland.

But after getting assurances from administration officials and federal prosecutors in Chicago that was not going to happen, federal agents began showing up in the city.

“Much work remains to be done. The level of violence in Chicago remains far too high, and it can be demoralizing. Many children have been senselessly killed and injured,” US Attorney John R. Lausch Jr. said during a press conference. “And while there are many things that need to be done to help Chicago’s violent crime problem, one thing that all rational people can agree upon is that violent offenders need to be held accountable for their crimes.”

Barr also argued cases prosecuted at the local level have become a revolving door, saying people have not been serving time for their crimes. 

In a statement, the Cook County States Attorney replied:

While we appreciate the 90 gun cases Operation Legend has charged here in Chicago, the State’s Attorney’s office has charged 710 state felony gun possession cases during this same time period. Unfortunately, violent crime across America has recently risen, including places where bail reform has not been addressed.

Nationally, the Department of Justice said Operation Legend resulted in 600 people being federally charged, including 150 with murder. The DOJ said it’s also taken close to 550 guns off the street, including 200 in Chicago alone.

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