On November 3, U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson announced $500,000 to combat violent crime in New Mexico. In a press release, Anderson said the grant, awarded by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, is part of more than $458 million in funding to support state, local and tribal law enforcement efforts to combat violent crime in jurisdictions across the United States.
A link to the full press release is here:
The $500,000 in funding is a continuation of the Trump Administration’s commitment to reducing crime and improving public safety. According to the press release:
“In the two years before President Trump took office, America had experienced a precipitous rise in crime, particularly in serious violent crime. The President elevated community safety to the top of his domestic agenda and crime rates have fallen steadily since. Recent data from the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2019 show a drop in crime and serious victimization for the third year in a row. However, a number of cities are experiencing conspicuous countertrends.”
In making the announcement, US Attorney John Anderson had this to say:
“I am pleased to announce this additional funding awarded to Bernalillo County as part of Operation Legend. … [Bernalillo County] Sheriff Gonzales and his department have been integral partners in identifying and apprehending perpetrators of dangerous crimes in our community. This funding helps to ensure that our efforts are sustainable over the long term.”
More than $458 million in federal funding has been awarded nationwide. The US Department of Justice has made 1,094 grants totaling more than $369 million to support a broad range of initiatives, including efforts in enforcement, prosecution, adjudication, detention and rehabilitation. Funding has included programs for efforts to suppress youth gang activity and to support research and evaluation on the prevention and reduction of violent crime.
Department of Justice “Office of Justice Programs” (OJP) awarded more than $10 million across 24 jurisdictions to intervene in and suppress youth gang activity as well as $1 million to the Institute for Intergovernmental Research to continue operating the National Gang Center. OJP’s National Institute of Justice awarded $7.8 million to fund research and evaluation on the prevention and reduction of violent crime. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Statistics provided more than $69 million to strengthen the quality and accessibility of records within the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Bernalillo County will receive $500,000 to assist in continuing efforts as part of Operation Legend. Operation Legend is an ongoing, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across federal law enforcement agencies work with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the current surge of violent crime in American cities.
In the press release, the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Office had this to say:
“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for our federal law enforcement partners supporting our office in the removal of career criminals from the streets and combating Albuquerque’s out-of-control crime crisis. This additional funding proves we have the federal government’s full support to make Bernalillo County a safer place to live.”
OPERATION LEGEND UPDATE
On Wednesday October 14, Attorney General William Barr and federal and local officials held a press briefing in Albuquerque on Operation Legend and proclaimed it a success. It was in July at the White House that President Donald Trump announced the Operation Legend where federal law enforcement agents were being sent to 7 cities that have some of the highest violent crime rates in the country.
The Department of Justice reported that since the start of Operation Legend in July 2020, it has been expanded from 7 cities to 9 cities with some of the highest violent crimes in the country. Operation legend has resulted in more than 5,000 arrests and of those arrests, about 247 have been for homicide, over 2,000 firearms have been seized in addition to the seizure of nearly 22 kilos of heroin, over 15 kilos of fentanyl, more than 130 kilos of methamphetamine, over 28 kilos of cocaine and more than $7.3 million in drug proceeds.
Of those approximately 5,000 arrests, 1,057 have been charged with federal offenses. Around 568 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses with around 411 being charged with drug-related crimes. Those remaining have been charged with various offenses.
RESULTS OF OPERATION LEGEND IN ALBUQUERQUE
Forty federal agents were sent to Albuquerque for the operation that worked with local law enforcement. Operation Legend targets violent criminals and crimes. In 2019, Albuquerque had a violent crime rate 3.7 times the national average. In recent years, property crime has decreased slightly but overall violent crime remains high.
During the October 14 press conference, Attorney General Barr, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson and FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich announce the results of the 3 month initiative. According to a news release from the Department of Justice, 113 defendants have been charged with federal crimes as follows:
47 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses
56 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses
10 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.
FBI Deputy Director Bowdich said that in Kansas City, another jurisdiction included in Operation Legend, there was a 30% reduction in violent crime, a 15% reduction in homicides and a 24% reduction in strong-arm robberies. However, no statistics showing if violent crime decreased in Albuquerque during the three months since Operation Legend began in the city.
FBI Deputy Director Bowdich had this to say:
“These are significant statistics, but these require the community to work close, hand in hand with law enforcement. … So I want to plead for help. … We need the community’s help, please trust us, please pick up the phone, and trust us to do the right thing and make sure we aggressively respond to tips and your complaints.”
ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR
During the October 14 press conference in Albuquerque, US Attorney General William Barr had this to say:
“The first priority of law enforcement has to be to get these people off the streets and get them into prison and to protect the people, and when you do that crime goes down. … Stop the revolving door and keep the chronic offenders off the street. Our problem back in 1992 was the problem we’re seeing here in Albuquerque today, which is revolving door justice in the state system. … If you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the street, you have to start paying attention to who you vote for to retain as judges, to who you make district attorney, to who you make mayor. … I’m saying this across the board, not just to the people of Albuquerque.”
DEFENSE BAR RESPOND TO BARR
In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal after the briefing, Jennifer Burrill, a public defender and the vice president of the N.M. Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had this to say:
“ … I’m very concerned this is not addressing the issues that we need, which are poverty and employment. Those types of things are what we see that reduce crime rates, not putting people in jail and pretending to throw away the key.”
Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur in response to AG Barr’s also said:
“You can’t just incarcerate your way out of crime issues. … The best way to address community safety is to look at the root causes: lack of education, lack of job opportunities and lack of affordable access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Operation Legend is a major crackdown aimed at driving down violent crime in 9 of the nation’s most violent cities in the country. Not at all surprising, Albuquerque is one of those cities. The other cities include Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee. All the cities have violent crime rates significantly higher and above the national average. FBI statistics reveal that Albuquerque has the dubious distinction of having a crime rate about 194% higher than the national average.
By all accounts, Operation Legend has been successful. Even with the initial success of Operation Legend, and the additional $500,000 in Federal grant money, it is very doubtful that it is going to make that much of difference anytime soon. Even with the initial success of Operation Legend, it is very doubtful that the 35 sworn law enforcement brought to the city for Operation Legend as well as the 40 new sworn police paid for by the Operation Legend grant, are going to make that much of difference anytime soon given the city and counties existing law enforcement personnel resources. APD has 984 sworn police and the BCSO has 300 sworn police, for a total of 1,284 sworn police, with city’s crime rates being some of the highest in the country for the last 10 years.
For the past 9 years, Albuquerque has experienced a sharp increase in crime. Six of those crime years were under Republican Mayor RJ Berry and for the past 3 years the crime rates haven gotten even worse under Democrat Mayor Keller. Keller himself is saying APD alone needs at least 200 more cops and have a full force of 1,200.
President Elect Joe Biden will be sworn on January 20, 2021 and United States Attorney William Barr will soon be gone with United State Attorney John Anderson likely to be replaced within 8 months. With the election of President Biden, the priorities of the US Department of Justice will likely come to a screeching halt and then begin in a new direction. New Mexico will still be dealing with high violent crime rates.
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department would be wise to grab that $500,000 in grant money before January 20, 2020.