AG Barr holds press conference on Operation Legend in Kansas City
Urge, of criminal investigators, from the fbi. The dea. The atf. And the united states marshals service to support. Not supplant, but support. The kansas city police department, in response, to an unprecedented. Surge. In violent crime in this city. With the, enthusiastic. Support, of his grieving, parents, the operation, was named. In honor of four-year-old, legend talifaro. Who was senselessly, killed. As he slept in his family's apartment. His parents. Want legends, legacy. To be a reduction, in the violent crime. Plaguing. Cities across our country. And we are honored to have them with us today. Operation, legend. Is working. In just four weeks it's resulted in the arrests of 18, homicide, suspects. And a seizure, of over 70, illegal firearms. In june. Kansas city had more than three killings. Every four days. Since our announcement, on july the 8th, that rate has been reduced to fewer than three killings. Every five days. Our clearance rate. That is the, rate of homicides, that are solved and referred to a prosecutor. Has increased from 34, percent. On june 1st. To 45. Today. There is much to be done. But to use the parlance of our day we are flattening, the curve. But this is not about numbers. This is about people. People like legend. Who survived heart surgery, as an infant. Only to be killed, by a criminal. His life, mattered. It's about people like eight-year-old brian bartlett. Who was killed. In his sleep, last august. His life mattered. I know what it means, to be the victim of gun violence. When i was five years old i saw my mother shot. In a robbery attempt. Violent crime is terrifying. It destroys, people. And it destroys, communities. And it has to stop. We must have the rule of. Law. We're grateful here in kansas city. To have these additional resources, and we are gratified, to see operation, legend. Expand to other cities, represented, by my colleagues, behind me here. It's now my privilege to introduce, the attorney general of the united, states, the honorable bill barr. To talk about the impact, operation, legend. Is having across the country. Thank you, thank you tim and good morning everyone, and i'm pleased to be here in kansas, city this morning to give you an update. On, project, legend, operation. Legend, one of the most significant. Law enforcement, operations. In the department, of justice. And i'd like to thank chief. Smith. The chief of the kansas city police department. For his superb, leadership, and for hosting, me. Today, we, we launched, operation, legend, in kansas, city. And one of the key factors. In that decision. Was that we, were working. With a superb, police department, and outstanding. Police, leadership. Three weeks ago. We've. Substantially. Expanded. Operation, legend, and we are now underway, in nine. U.s, cities. As tim mentioned. The operation. Is named for. Legend. Talaferro. A four-year-old. Boy who was. Shot while he was asleep. In his apartment. For us legend, is a symbol. Of the, many, hundreds. Of innocent, lives, that have been taken. In the recent upsurge. Of crime. In many. Of our urban areas. His life mattered, and, the lives of all of those victims, matter. His name should be remembered.
And His senseless. Death. Like those of all the other innocent, victims. Uh in this recent surge. Should be unacceptable. To all americans. Through. Operation, legend, the federal government, has dispatched. To the nine, cities. To not, these nine cities, more than a thousand. Additional. Agents. To work shoulder, to shoulder. With our state, and local. Partners, and when i say shoulder to shoulder i mean literally, i just had the pleasure. Of visiting, the kansas city police department. And meeting. The homicide. Squads, the four homicide. Squads, and the two assault, squads. And, visiting with them. The kansas city police, detectives, on those squads but embedded, with those squads. Are, fbi, agents, dea. Agents. And atf. Agents. Working, literally, shoulder to shoulder. With them to crack these cases. Here in kansas city, for example there are, 185. Additional, agents. From the fbi. Dea. Atf. And the u.s marshals. Also, to support this operation. We've allocated. 78.5. Million, dollars. In grants, and other funds, made available. To our state and local partners. These grants for example. Go to support, additional, police, positions. In some states, we have used them to hire more prosecutors. And we have also used them. These funds. To. Bring to bear some improved, technology. To help us solve these crimes particularly, in the area of firearms. Crimes. We saw one result, of those efforts, last week when kansas city police. Arrested. The suspected. Murderer. Of legend. The arrest was the product of very hard work, by the kansas city police. And was supported. By critical, assistance. From the fbi. This arrest, will bring. Will not bring legend back. But, it will make his case an example. Of how we can come together. To. Take violent criminals, off the street. And to make our communities. Safer. Legends, mother and father are, here. And. When i met her in washington. I promised. Sharon, that. Legend's, death would not be in vain. And he will inspire, us. To greater, efforts. To, make, kansas, city. Safe. And charon, said that. She also strongly, supported, expanding, our efforts beyond, kansas, city. So that other communities, around the country, can be made. Safer. So i'm here today, with. Not only tim the u.s attorney here in kansas city but the deputy, director. Of the fbi. David bowdich, who was. Instrumental. In launching, operation. Legend. And, the other u.s attorneys. From chicago. St louis, detroit, cleveland, memphis, milwaukee. Indianapolis. And.
Albuquerque. They're deeply committed to this operation. And we have some encouraging. Early results. To start i'd like to. Put things in a bit of context. The most basic, duty of government, is to provide, for the safety, of the community. In, 1991. In 1992. First time i was attorney, general. Violent, crime rate. That year was at an all-time, high in the united, states. It's never been higher. And. For the three decades, leading up to the that year. Violent crime had tripled. In the united, states. At that time. We made the decision, in the federal government, to. Dramatically. Increase, our role. To focus on combating, violent, crime. And we launched a series. Of initiatives. Focused, on drugs. Drug organizations. Gangs. And gun offenders. And we also expanded, our close, collaboration. With state and local law enforcement. And built up. Task forces, to go after. These violent offenders. And predators. And over the next 25, years. The crime has steadily, fallen. And it's now half. Of the level it was. In 1991. And 1992.. That's a lot of lives. That have been saved. Now, in 2015. And 16. It went up a little bit, but i'm happy that at least. During the last three years of this administration. It again is on a downward, trajectory. Except for this year. 2020.. Well the, you know we haven't finished the year yet. And we haven't looked at all the nationwide. Numbers, reported, yet. This could be a bad year for violent crime, an arrest, a trend. That as i say. Has been going on for almost 30 years. This spike, may have a lot of. Reasons, behind it. I think, some of it may be the pent-up, aggression. Prompted, by. State and local. Quarantine, orders. I definitely, feel a lot of it is due to the premature, release. Of dangerous, criminals, by the courts. And by. Prosecutors. And. I think, it also is related to the efforts, that we've recently, seen to demonize. Police, and to defund. Their work. Operation, legend, is the heart, of the federal government's, response. To this. Upturn. In violent, crime. Its mission, is to save lives. Solve crimes. And take violent offenders, off the streets. Before. They can claim more victims. Rather than demonizing. And defunding. Our police, we are supporting. And strengthening. Our law enforcement. Partners. At the state and local level. So far. Federal state. Task forces, involved, in operation, legend. Have made, almost. 1500. Arrests. I think it's, 1485. To be precise. And many of those arrests, are for violent, state crimes, including 90 homicides. Like. Legends. Murderer. That's more than 90, suspected. Killers. Who might still be on the streets, without. Operation, legend. And in many cities. As i said the operation, is just getting. Started. We make decisions, as we go along.
In Consultation. And jointly with our, state, partners, as to whether, it makes more sense to pursue. A case through the state prosecution. System, or through the federal, system. And so prisoners are charged in both. Under this operation. Of those arrested, we have charged, more than 200, for federal, crimes. And that includes, more than 100, charged for federal gun crimes, 21, of which have been here in kansas, city. Now bringing, federal charges. Is helpful. Because, in many states, it is very hard. Now, today. To. Keep, violent criminals. In pre-trial, detention. They're just let right out on the street again but in the federal, system. We have a better ability. To hold on to violent, offenders. Keep them in custody. Pending disposition. Of their case. This is critical. For community, policing. We hear a lot of talk from people about how important community. Policing, is and it is. And, good police departments, have that. But the essential, ingredient, for it is that the community. Feels safe, when they're dealing with the police, and they're providing, information, to the police. And what typically, happens. Is that where there is no pretrial, detention. And people in the community, feel. That the criminals, are going to be right back out on the street within hours. They're extremely, hesitant. To work closely with the police, so this is very important, tool. It's a tool that the states, need. But during. This. Period. With such high murder rate. We're stepping forward, so that we can help keep some of these, offenders, off the streets. And it's also important, because. In, far too many states. The sentences, are too lenient. And do not incapacitate. These violent criminals, long enough and do not provide a deterrent. And do not encourage, them to cooperate. Once they're captured. And in the federal, system. We have very, strong, sentences, for violent, crimes, and that, that helps us get further, information. From these. Offenders. And criminals, know that they know that the federal. System, means business, and we're putting them out of business. Of violence, in our cities. Our work, is just getting started. Well let me just. Pause and say uh there have been a number of. Photographs. Of, of guns, appearing, on this, on this screen, and, one of the important developments. Of. Legend, has been the seizure of hundreds and hundreds of firearms. In our legend, city. Cities. Here in here in, kansas city i think where. 78, firearms, have been. Seized, and as you can tell these are not pop guns. A lot of these, are. High-powered. Ar-15. Type guns, with. Huge. Magazines. Drum magazines. So, getting them off the street. Is saving lives. And we are using very sophisticated. Ballistic, investigation. Technology. To pursue, more than 500. Leads, to solve. More gun crimes. So our work is just getting started. There is more important. There's no more important. Mission for the department, of justice. Than keeping our communities. Safe. And through this operation. We're going to continue, working with our state and local, partners. To do just that. So now i'm i'd like to ask chief. Smith. And. Uh legends, mother sharon. Uh if they would like to say a few words and i'll and i'll start with you. Chief smith. Thank you mr attorney general. Rick smith can't see missouri police chief.
I, You know this morning as we were going through some things with the attorney general. One thing became noticeable, as we walked through our cases, is that, we wouldn't have solved the cases, as timely, as we had, and we wouldn't have suspects, in custody, without our federal partnerships. When i turned the attorney general i said this is absolutely, making a difference. And i hope the message that's sent to our community. Is that this difference, makes, that these arrests make a difference. And, and it will make a difference on our violent crime rate overall. In kansas city and when we started this operation. I said it's not about the agents that came here it's about the violence that's occurring, and what we want to do is for the violence to subside. So, thank you very much to all the partners who have helped. Us. Hello, i'm sharon, powell. Legend's, mother. I just want to say thank you for everyone, that had a helping hand, into solving, my son's. Case. And i also want to thank the community, because i know for a fact we had a lot of tips and help from the community, so i truly appreciate. The help that we had, but i want to. I want to. Express, that the community we have to. Help each other. With the other cases that they're working on to help solve if you have any information, any tips i think just go ahead and give us give them a call, so we can help solve other. Murders, like my son because i know we have had. A lot of children, that was murdered in our city and as a community we have to come together to help solve. The rest of these murders because this is just the beginning. Yes i have, i'm beginning to get justice for my son but i also want to make sure i help everyone, out, that i can so we can get justice for you guys also. And like i said i want to thank, every single person that had a helping hand, into solving my son's case the blood the sweat the tears i appreciate, it i thank you, and, like my family we all thank you it has helped and lifted. A slight weight off of us know we don't have our son back, but at the same time, we do have. We have a light weight lifted off of us and i appreciate. Everyone, and i thank you. Thank you. So that uh i'm glad. We're glad to take some. Questions. In kansas city and nationwide. Stem from arguments. So can you elaborate. On. Any federal efforts to address, the root causes of crime. And specific, variables, related to crime in an effort to reduce, violent crime, long term. Well there have been efforts. Addressed to. Trying to figure out what, the root causes, of violent crime are and to address them and they've been going on, you know for. 70, 80 years.
The Department of justice, the enforcement, agencies. Our primary, responsibility. Is to deal with crime. The social conditions, that contribute, to crime, the, fact that, people argue with each other and so forth. Is really, something that other agencies, should, agency. Should be focused, on. Now the police have been called upon recently, to do more and more. Work in areas, where other. Professions. And other agencies, have sort of let the ball drop so increasingly. Police have to deal with mental illness. Homelessness. Drug addiction. And they have been. Taking on that burden to some extent. But in terms of sort of. A broad. Questions, about people's, argumentativeness. And social conditions, and make it contribute, to crime. The government has been. Working on that and spending. Trillions, and trillions of dollars, over the years on that, and. One point i've always made is none of this money spent none of the educational. Efforts, none of the. Vocational. Efforts, or, or. Activities. Recreational. Activities. Can bear fruit. In an atmosphere. Where there's blood flowing, on the street. One of the things. Has always concerned, me is. It's always been presented, as i. Are usually presented, as a dichotomy. Which is you know let's. Uh. Attack the root causes, versus. Uh. Those who are actually committing, crimes. And, it can't be a dichotomy. Because none of the efforts to rehabilitate. Communities. Can bear fruit in an atmosphere. Of bloodshed. So the first step in my view is to provide, safety. Safety to the community, and that's the job of law. Enforcement. You mentioned. So far, so far. How many of those. People. Remain, in custody, today. I i, know. Not sure where's, justin. Yeah justin do you know we'll have to get the answer, for you i mean a lot um. As you know the marshals have been very active. Sorry as you know the marshals have been very active, in making arrests on fugitives. And so our expectation, is when somebody is a fugitive, and they're returned on a warrant, we stand a much much better chance in our state or federal court of having that person detained. Uh but we don't have an exact number for you at the moment we can work on getting that for you. So that's a very complicated. Uh question, uh because there's so many different courts that are in play, um but we're working on an answer for it it's a good good question but we'll get you to answer. The uh. One thing i didn't mention is in addition to the arrests we had the uh. The marshals. Uh. Apprehending. Fugitives. And we have apprehended, as part of operational, legend, over a thousand, fugitives. Most of those are on state. Charges. A federal, initiative. But the person that was charged with the homicide. Killing mansion. Who only faces, state charges. You mentioned earlier that fbi, played a, role in this apprehension, can you tell us a little bit. Uh because as far as i know there was no federal, offense. Involved, in that. I'm not is that correct. Yeah. There was no federal, you know we have. The federal code has a number of, laws that if you break it it's a federal, offense. And, uh. State law otherwise, governs. But. Right, so i'm going to ask the deputy director to comment on that but let me just say generally. What i was trying to describe, to you is these are. Task forces. Where you have both state and federal officers, working, cases. And. Then decisions, are made as to whether it's better to charge it as a state case. Or a federal, case. So the federal government will assist.
State Law enforcement. As they pursue, investigations. Of state cases. And then sometimes, it's found out during the state, during that investigation. That there has been a federal violation, as well in which case, we sometimes, charge that as a federal. But as to the specifics. In that case my understanding, is that both the. Both the fbi, and the u.s marshals, assisted, the kansas city police. I'm not sure whether. Chief smith, or or dave bowditch, would address that yeah. Uh well. Good question uh first off i think it's important to understand, as the attorney general mentioned earlier. Uh we work side by side and when i say we i'm talking department of justice, components, to include the atf, the dea, the u.s marshals, and the fbi. We work side by side with state and local detectives. Across, the country, in all the major cities and many of the smaller cities. I'm not going to get into specifics, of this particular, case because it is now. Going to be adjudicated. What i will say is it's very common for us to. All of us to, conduct surveillances. Search warrants. Interviews. Social media exploitation. General, court process, and general investigative. Techniques. As part of our task forces, that are both joint and federal task. Forces. It's my understanding that the five have been. Charged. Crashing in a protest, and getting some traction online. Um you know is there any federal investigation, at this point. It's my understanding, that. We now have a suspect. In that, beating. And. In terms of federal resources. There hasn't been any. Significant. Change in the federal resources. There i think. You know the fbi, has been providing, investigative. Uh, personnel, to help pursue some of the. Confident, are investigations that. You'll be able to have the evidence, to, ultimately, lead to conditions, in these cases. Well you know i think, you know i'm. Pretty confident the evidence will be there but, i think one of the problems we have in the criminal justice, system, now. Is. Revolving, door justice. And, i think too many. Criminals, i, to tell you the truth during my. Exposure, to the law enforcement. Community, which is goes back. Over 30 years. There's one constant, which is the police, do their job. The police, do. Get the suspect, and get the evidence, the system. Falls, apart. Uh in the, prosecution. And trial. And, sentencing, stage. And what's happening these days in the country is we're going back to some of the old practices. We. Followed, in the 60s, and 70s. Where, there's revolving, door justice, and people are not being held they're not being held before, trial when they're dangerous.
They're Not being sentenced. To, prison. Even though they're violent. So that increasing, number of these people. Have serious criminal history records and they're out on the street. That's the problem. I think if you go to most of these big cities that are experiencing. An increase in violent crime. And you go to the police departments. They will know who the shooters, are. They will know exactly, who the shooters, are. And they're not that many of them relatively, speaking. Two three hundred. That if you took off the streets. You would more than half. Violent, crime. That's my impression, and i'm now aggregate i'm not necessarily, talking, just about kansas, city i'm just talking about. All the cities. Generally. Well actually that's that's wrong in this sense. I think the the. Mass incarceration. Has been thrown around, but. I was talking about, the incarceration. Of, chronic, violent offenders. Violent, criminals. And i hope no one is suggesting, that they shouldn't be incarcerated. I think what people refer to as mass incarceration. Really refers. To the harsh. Long. Sentences. For, minor drug distribution. Or small amounts of drug distribution. Which led to a, very substantial. Increase, in the prison population. I'm not talking about that now i'm talking about getting shooters, off the. In the community street. Say that, uh operation, legend, and things like this are an overreach, of the federal government i mean there were people in kansas city including our mayor and one of our congressmen. At one point who were against, operation, legend coming to kansas city can you address those people. Sure. There's been a lot of. Confusion, in the media some of it not unintentional. Confounding, two different. Aspects, of law enforcement. One is dealing with civil unrest. Rioting. And the other is. The classical. Traditional. Work that law enforcement, does. Finding. Criminal suspects. And prosecuting. Them. And. Uh. What operation. Legend deals with with, is the latter. And. We've been doing that in the federal government, for decades, as i said we stepped it up. Dramatically. In the early 90s. But, working, on violent crime and working with state and local government. That's, what the department, of justice, does. And we've done it a long time and what this is. Is ratcheting, it up and targeting. At, the shooters, in selected, cities where there's a high, homicide. Or non-fatal, shooting, rate. I think a lot of that rhetoric, came at a time, when.
The. Narrative. As the press calls it. Was, in. Taking shape in portland. That, the federal government was overreaching, by going into suppressed. Demonstrations. And during, that, uh in that it was in that environment, that i think some people made. Misinformed. Or comments. About this law enforcement. Initiative. You know we've talked about this, successes, of operation, legend so far, you all are pulling out of kansas city as i understand, in september. So, what, comes after this like how are we going how. Is, this operation, going to continue. To be successful, in kansas city after the, 185. People that are here helping, pull out, well we're not pulling out of kansas, city in september, i mean we we always will have a. Strong, law enforcement, presence, here. And. It's really a question of. Adjusting, the levels, of. Additional, resources. That, remain, committed. And. That's. That's a moving, i mean that that will be, considered, as we go along as long as we're successful. Uh and taking bad guys off the street we'll be. Here 14. 85, that's a number of arrests but only 200, charges of federal crime that's about. 13.5. No but that's not the revolving, door that's the decision, of where where they're going to be. Door letting charged, out, um of course we're in the middle of a pandemic. You know, a lot of a lot of these cripples, who may be getting arrested. May be getting back on the street. I guess it goes back to my earlier question about are you tracking them. Are you. Yeah i haven't aggregated, them so i can't give you an overall figure but when we talk to the us attorneys, and the individual. Jurisdictions. They have, a good idea, of which cases. Uh. Uh, in the state system, are going to be able to stick, and it varies from state to state i don't want to comment. On the degree, of revolving, door that exists here i don't know if the chief wants to comment, on it no but. But uh i i, are do any of my colleagues, uh the u.s attorneys, do you have any observations. About this relating to your own state, in terms of. How many of these things we're able to uh. On the state side we can. Keep yeah. I'll just say this on the fugitive, warrants, the these warrants that are, where we're making arrests in these, warrants these are violent criminal, warrants right so these are people who are charged with aggravated, assault. Or homicide. Very serious, crimes. Um. Those tend to be cases that are good candidates for bail in any court system. When you're trying to seek detention, when you've returned a fugitive to a court system. Uh where they're charged with a homicide, or an aggravated, assault you've got a pretty good argument for detention. Certainly in ohio that would be the case, which is where i'm from the u.s attorney in cleveland. Many of these other arrests. Are. Fresh, state arrests that are made on the same kind of crimes aggravated, assaults. Illegal possession of a firearm. Large-scale, drug trafficking that's what we're looking at, so those are cases that, on average. Are going to stand a much better chance of detention. In ohio. Really in. Many other court systems, you'd have a pretty good shot at detention.
But I can only speak for ohio. Okay. She. Recognized. Here, low clearance, trade. Well, first of all our clearance rate i think this morning is around, 60 some percent, so, i think we're. Right about the national average maybe a little bit more, i think what we're seeing here with our assistants, is we're getting things done more timely, things that would take us more time due to resources, and manpower. Are wouldn't happen as quick, and. Just forensically. All kinds of things. Analyst, staff, other things that are helping us out, make the system, and our investigations. Move so much faster, than they would have if we did not have the help. Well i i think in terms of atf's. Efforts, in terms of going after straw purchasers. And other uh. Ways that people. Get access, unlawfully. To firearms, the answer to that is yes. Okay, thank you. One more question. Oh.