Federal, local law enforcement launches Operation LeGend to fight crime in Memphis

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal, state and local law enforcement launched Operation LeGend on Thursday.

The initiaitive is a federal effort to curb violent crime in Memphis and was “created as a result of President [Donald] Trump’s promise to assist America’s cities that are plagued by recent violence,” a news release from the Department of Justice from July said.

According to officials, approximately 40 or so agents will be given temporary assignments in Memphis to focus on violent crimes. Some of those would become permanent assignments.

There will also be a surge in resources to help local authorities.

US. Attorney Michael Dunavant said the federal resources would be directed to precincts with high violent crime rates — the Raines, Old Allen and Airways stations.

Operation LeGend, named for a 4-year-old crime victim in Kansas City, was firs rolled out in that city and then expanded to Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and other cities, and would be in St. Louis soon, Dunavant said.

“Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Memphis and St. Louis, two cities experiencing increases in violent crime that no resident of those cities should have to accept as part of everyday life,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”

The federal operation is not, Dunavant said, an “introduction of federal riot police” to Memphis, or an introduction of federal agents to protect federal property or patrol for immigration violations.

“No one is talking about bringing federal troops to Memphis,” he said.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland released the following statement about the operation:

“I would just like to reiterate what  U.S. Attorney Dunavant has said about Operation Legend; it ‘is a violent crime reduction effort, with additional resources being provided to federal, state, and local law enforcement to assist in traditional crime-fighting directed at gang violence, narcotics-related shootings, and illegal firearms.  That’s what it is.  What it is not is an introduction of federal riot police, uniformed personnel, or other federal agents to protect federal property, and is not intended to introduce any additional ICE resources to enforce immigration offenses.’ As I said earlier this week, we need more officers to investigate violent crimes to get violent criminals off our streets. As long as these federal agents are focused on this task, we will be supportive.”

The news comes as Memphis had one of the deadliest months in history, reporting more than 40 homicides last month alone. The previous record for a month was 29. Last July there were 15 recorded homicides, MPD said.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said the city has seen 177 homicides this year, with 23 of them involving children. Homicides are up 49 percent, gun crimes are up 23 percent and aggravated assault shootings are up 19 percent this year.

This time last year, Memphis had about 102 murders. This year the city has reported 154. The record of 228 homicides in a year was set in 2016.

Rallings said the partnership with federal authorities was welcomed.

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