KANSAS CITY, Mo — U.S. Attorney General William Barr visited Kansas City on Wednesday, speaking at the Federal Courthouse downtown to give an update on Operation LeGend.
He called Operation LeGend “one of the most significant law enforcement operations in the Department of Justice.”
Operation LeGend in Kansas City is made up of 185 additional federal agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshal’s Service, working shoulder-to-shoulder with KCPD.
Its aim is to combat violence in cities across the country. Operation LeGend kicked off in Kansas City on July 8, but it hasn’t been without controversy with several protests against it.
In a rare one-on-one interview, Barr told FOX4 that Operation LeGend is working but still has a long way to go.
“I am most proud about saving lives by taking violent criminals off the street,” Barr said of the program named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in June while sleeping in his Kansas City home.
The initiative came from conversations between Barr and President Donald Trump about the rise in violent crime.
“When he sees the numbers, especially of children shot, he makes it known he’s very unhappy,” Barr said of Trump. “And he has constantly been asking, ‘Can we do some thing? What more can we do?’”
As of Monday, federal officials said there have been 239 arrests made in Kansas City as a result of Operation LeGend. Of those, 45 have been charged federally, 194 have been referred to the state for prosecution.
Officials say 18 homicide suspects are off the streets, including LeGend’s alleged killer, 22-year-old Ryson Ellis, who was arrested last week.
Tim Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said Kansas City had more than five killings every three days in June. Today, he said it has reversed to three killings every five days.
“The ones we are taking federal are the ones that we think there is an important public safety aspect to keep people off the streets,” Barr said.
Barr believes the federal government has better ability to keep violent criminals behind bars and points to state programs like bail reform, light sentences and early release programs for the rise in violent crime.
Plus, Barr pointed to what he called the “Ferguson Affect,” national unrest after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Rather than demonizing and defunding our police, we are supporting and strengthening our law enforcement partners,” Barr said.
There are now 1,000 federal agents in nine Operation LeGend cities across the country.
And as long as Barr is U.S. attorney general, he said those agents will remain in action until there’s a significant decrease in violent crime.
“As I say, this is a work in progress,” Barr said. “The first hard-hitting is until September. We’re not going to fold our tents after that. We will just adjust it to circumstances.”