MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Federal agents remain on the streets in Memphis, working side by side with local law enforcement officers for Operation LeGend. The U.S. Attorney for our district says the numbers show the effort is working.
It has been a month since Operation LeGend landed in Memphis, with agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals hitting the streets making arrests.
As of Tuesday, there have been 302 arrests, with 102 of those are on new federal and state charges.
The federal charges include nine for firearms violations, four for drugs and three for violent crimes like bank robbery, carjacking or robbery of a business.
U.S. Attorney Mike Dunavant says they are encouraged by the numbers, even as Memphis teeters on setting a record for homicides this year.
“If you actually take a look at the violent crime rate and the statistical data from June and July, and compare it to August, we actually see some encouraging trends,” Dunavant said.
So, we checked Memphis Police Department’s data hub comparing this July with August, the month Operation LeGend started in Memphis.
Homicides went from 29 in July down to 18 in August. Residential burglaries dropped from 289 to 265. But aggravated assaults went from 418 in July to 439 in August.
“Aggravated assault is still up,” Dunavant said. “We are concerned about that. We are watching each of those categories, measuring it and deploying our resources where we see we are having a difference.”
Josh Spickler with Just City is against Operation LeGend. He calls it a “fear-based” campaign stunt.
“Many of these folks in Memphis in particular are not charged with violent crimes,” Spickler said. “In reality, crime is down. Our community still struggles with crime and with violent crime in particular. But that is no reason to invite federal agents on to our streets. That is no reason to raise fear.”
He says address the systemic issues instead.
“If the federal government were serious about helping Memphis with some of its societal problems, including crime, then they would further invest in housing, further invest in mental health care in our community, further invest in our kids’ education,” Spickler said.
But Dunavant says their arrests of repeat violent offenders continue to move the needle. The federal charges mean stronger penalties and less likelihood of being released before trial.
“We are making progress,” Dunavant said. “We are removing the worse of the worse from the streets.”
Dunavant says Operation LeGend will be in Memphis as long as it takes to reduce crime numbers.