On a recent visit to Chicago, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr lauded the Department of Justice’s successes with Operation Legend, which was executed during the month of August. Standing in front of masked reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, and without the visual trappings of being flanked by Mayor Lori Lightfoot or Governor J.B. Pritzker, Barr relayed the promising stats of 2,000 arrests. He also set aside fears that it was a federal overreach, insisting that the plan is working, crime is down, and order is being restored to this “great American city.”
In the Windy City, Barr cited the federal criminal charges awaiting 124 defendants: 90 on gun-related crimes and 30 thugs charged with drug trafficking – assuring that the good people struggling to endure the violence at least had some relief:
“The results of those actions speak for themselves. Over the first five weeks of Operation Legend in Chicago, murders dropped by 50% over the previous five weeks.”
Critics felt it was a political stunt as President Trump is banking on being the law and order candidate to endorse come election day. If those suspicions are correct, then it wasn’t a well thought out publicity event: The announcement came after Chicago saw 51 shootings and seven fatalities over the Labor Day weekend. The timing wasn’t so great.
The Uneasy Congratulatory Backslap
Of course, the mayor would not concede that the Trump initiative had done anything to help her charming, well-behaved city residents. After a decent amount of time had passed, Lightfoot made her enthralling remarks, saying her city would not be used as a “prop” by the bad orange man who continues to “bad-mouth Chicago, making misleading and outright false statements.”
Did she insinuate that the president has referred to Chi-Town as a violent hot mess of madness with innocent people always caught up in the middle? All of that is fact. One local group with an intent to shame someone – anyone – in a position of authority into doing something constructive is made up of gun violence and crime fact-checkers. They have collected data since 2012 and can illustrate with one keystroke the lack of city leadership over the years – under Obama’s pal Rahm Emanuel and now the delightful Lori Lightfoot. And what have they discovered? That the good citizens usually end up footing the bill. To date, $154,091,400 is the cost of gunshot victims; one person shot every two hours, one person murdered every 11 hours and 11 minutes, and an upward trend. Just this month alone, 22 Chicagoans were shot and killed and another 100 shot & wounded.
For what, exactly, is Barr patting himself on the back? Although August 2020 does show a significant improvement, compared to August 2019, homicides are up 35%.
The University of Chicago Crime Lab Director Jens Ludwig also weighed in on the numbers saying: “there’s enough variability in the month-to-month crime numbers in Chicago that I think it’s maybe too early to think that we’ve turned the corner.”
Gotta Start Somewhere
Operation Legend was created in response to the LeGend Taliferro tragedy, the four-year-old boy shot and killed while asleep in his bed. Championing law and order, Trump went all in to ferret out the perpetrators taking innocent lives in cities plagued by Antifa and Black Lives Matter violence. The Windy City made the list. In fact, the cities on the list are all Democrat-controlled – Kansas City, MO, Albuquerque, NM, Detroit, MI, Cleveland, OH, Milwaukee, WI, Indianapolis, IN and Memphis, Tennessee.
It’s hard not to see a problematic pattern. But Barr is also a relentless arbiter of law and order and to discount the early successes of the initiative in 30 short days is unwise. Progress is being made where none has been recorded for months – and in Chicago, decades.
America should see where Operation Legend goes before claiming success or finding it to be a failure.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.