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Federal Agents Have Left Kansas City, But Officials Say Anti-Crime Operation LeGend Continues

Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison (right) announces Monday that 518 arrests had been made by local and federal law enforcement officers as part of Operation LeGend in Kansas City. Garrison made the announcement in a joint press conference at Firehouse #18 with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas (left) and Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith.

Federal authorities say the effort led to over 500 arrests in Kansas City, but that included arrests under other operations. Civil rights leaders were highly critical of it, calling it "undue civilian terror."

Despite the "surge" of federal agents having left Kansas City, law enforcement leaders on Monday said the crime-fighting initiative Operation LeGend will live on.

The operation lead to more than 500 arrests, including 37 suspects in homicide cases, the seizure of 176 illegal firearms, and "large quantities" of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, according to U.S Attorney Tim Garrison.

“This is not a victory lap,” Garrison said. “We’re not spiking the football, we’re not declaring victory and going home. Operation Legend is not over; it is simply entering into a new phase.”

Garrison was joined at the press conference by Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith and was held at the fire station on Indiana Avenue, where last month 22-month-old Tyron Payton was brought after being fatally shot.

Operation LeGend, named after another Kansas City child, 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was killed this summer, was met with disdain from civil rights groups who said it would lead to “undue civilian terror.” Democrats criticized the effort, lead by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who made a trip to Kansas City, as fueled by election-year politics.

The withdrawal of agents last week, described in the beginning as a "surge," demonstrated that the effort was never meant to be an “indefinite occupation, with troops and tanks in the streets," Garrison said.

“Unless you were engaged in criminal misconduct, or in the vicinity of someone who was, you likely never saw any of the agents that were sent to Kansas City,” Garrison said. “It was designed to be a high impact, limited duration surge of resources to help us get our arms around our violent crime problem.”

It's been a deadly year in Kansas City, with 149 people killed.

Lucas, who's faced criticism for allowing federal agents into the city and for his support of Smith, said work at combating violent crime must continue.

“I hope every Kansas Citian is as outraged as we are by our violent crime numbers and is dedicated to seeing change and improvement,” Lucas said. “Regardless of the effort, we’re going to keep taking bold affirmative steps to make Kansas City safer each and every day.”

Carlos Moreno/KCUR.org
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas discusses the role that community plays in combatting violence during a joint press conference Monday with U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison, middle, and Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith (left) at Firehouse Station #18 near the location of a child who was killed last week by gunfire.

Smith, who many have called to be fired following multiple instances of police brutality within his department, said Operation LeGend lead to a decrease in crime.

Homicides, non-fatal shootings, aggravated assaults, armed robberies and domestic violence all decreased in the 10 weeks following Operation LeGend compared to the 10 weeks prior, Smith said. The clearance rate of homicides has increased as well, he said.

“Of course, this is not academically verified, but I absolutely believe Operation Legend helped make this possible," Smith said.

Lucas Cuni-Mertz is a news intern at KCUR 89.3.
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