DETROIT, MI—The White House is sending 42 federal agents to Detroit in the coming week as part of its new crime-fighting initiative, Operation Legend.
In a July 29, press release, the United States Department of Justice announced Operation Legend would be expanding to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee.
“Operation Legend is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime,” states the release.
The focus of these deployed agents to Detroit is to target citywide gun violence. The government is deploying 19 new permanent Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents, 15 temporary ATF agents—who will be there on a 90-day assignment—five permanent FBI agents, three temporary FBI agents, and a number of FBI analysts.
As explained during a the news conference held by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on July 29, these federal agents will center their work in specific precincts throughout Detroit. The 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 12th precincts are documented as being particularly violent in the past few months. The homicide rate is up 90 percent and fatal shootings are up 44 percent.
At the news conference, US Attorney Matthew Schneider clarified the purpose of these agents, “there are no federal troops coming to Detroit, or anywhere in Michigan, to interfere with protestors.”
The head of ATF in Southeastern Michigan, James Deier commented, “ATF and none of my federal partners here are going to be driving around the streets in unmarked cars to somehow make contact of swoop up protestors and demonstrators […] It’s not going to happen. I have no interest in that. It’s not my mission. It’s not our lane.”
Black Lives Matter protests have continued throughout the city, which has seen an increase in homicides since the beginning of this year, as have many other major cities in the United States.
Homicides have increased by 31 percent. Shootings have increased by 53 percent, nearly 30 percent in the last two months with 63 deaths.
At the news conference, Deier commented, “senseless gun violence is taking over the streets of Detroit […] whether we want to admit it or we want to stick our heads in the sand, at the end of the day, statistics do not lie.”
Schneider displayed a photo of guns seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration at a house in Detroit. The agents found heroin, cocaine, nine guns, and body armor vests. He stated, “For those who say they don’t want federal agents in Detroit, I ask you, ‘Do you want these guns on your streets, in your neighborhoods?'”
Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan issued a joint statement on July 29 regarding the arrival of federal agents to Detroit.
“We have to address the unacceptable level of gun violence in Detroit through greater efforts by federal, state, county, DPD, and community partners all working together. We hope today’s announcement will prove to be an important step in that direction,” said Craig and Duggan.
A $1 million federal grant was provided to Detroit, in addition to the 42 agents. Operation Legend was originally launched on July 8 in Kansas City, Missouri, with the intent of fighting increased violence throughout the city.
The operation is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro. He was shot and killed on June 29 while sleeping in his home in Kansas City.
On May 21, 4-year-old Nathaniel Townsend Jr., also known as “Messiah,” was shot at his grandmother’s house in Detroit when he was getting a snack in the kitchen and gunfire struck the house. At the news conference, the FBI announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect responsible for Townsend’s death.
His mother, Marlisha Townsend Roby, spoke at the conference pleading to the public to offer clues as to who killed her son.