Operation LeGend brings federal help to fight crime in Memphis

The FBI and other local enforcement agencies have stepped in to fight the rising violence in Memphis.

United States Attorney D. Michael Dunavant announced Thursday that Operation LeGend, a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime, will be expanding into the City of Memphis.

It’s something that helps all law enforcement agencies in Memphis by providing more federal resources for agencies like the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Memphis Police Department. The major focus is on protecting children.

“Twenty dead children and the year isn’t over. We as a community aren’t going to tolerate that,” said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Weirich is one of many local officials who spoke on an increased effort to lower crime in Memphis. It’s called Operation Legend and it’s to bring justice for children lost to gun violence.

“When murder is up 49% in the last 6 months, we can’t even get to prevention or intervention or rehabilitation until we can do suppression,” said Dunavant. “Twenty children are dead, murders are spiking, we might set a record this year with murders.”

Dunavant said Operation LeGend will add more federal resources to local law enforcement to reduce crime, including over $9 million over 3 years to the Memphis Police Department to hire 50 new officers and update technology. Director Mike Rallings said there’s still a need for more.

“Fifty officers is going to help, but that’s nowhere near what we need. We’re down 400 police officers,” said Rallings. “This is a great opportunity for us to throw everything including the kitchen sink at police hiring.”

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Law enforcement agencies say there’ve been 177 homicides in Memphis. 23 of those were children and 18 were murdered. There’s a hope that Operation LeGend will help to lower those numbers and get violent offenders off the street.

“Everybody needs to rally around this,” said Rallings. “If we cannot do that then I’m very concerned about the future of our community.”

This is an operation that’s on the ground now according to officials and they said there will be change to lower crime in Memphis.

“It is a violent crime reduction effort, with additional resources being provided to federal, state, and local law enforcement to assist in traditional crime-fighting directed at gang violence, narcotics-related shootings, and illegal firearms,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

A $25,000 reward was also announced in connection to the murder of a six-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy in Memphis.

Ashlyn Luckett and Lequan Boyd were killed in a drive-by shooting at a home in Hickory Hill in January. The FBI is offering the reward for information that could lead to an arrest.

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According to the Department of Justice, Operation LeGend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City. The Operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, MO., and expanded on July 22, 2020, to Chicago and Albuquerque, and then to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee on July 29, 2020.

Thursday, the expansion of Operation LeGend was announced in the cities of Memphis and St. Louis.

“The most basic responsibility of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Today, we have extended Operation Legend to Memphis and St. Louis, two cities experiencing increases in violent crime that no resident of those cities should have to accept as part of everyday life. For decades, the Department of Justice has achieved significant success when utilizing our anti-violent crime task forces and federal law enforcement agents to enforce federal law and assist American cities that are experiencing upticks in violent crime. The Department of Justice’s assets will supplement local law enforcement efforts, as we work together to take the shooters and chronic violent criminals off of our streets.”

As part of Operation LeGend, Attorney General Barr directed the ATF, FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) to significantly increase resources into Memphis and St. Louis in the coming weeks to help state and local officials fight high levels of violent crime, particularly gun violence. Memphis is currently experiencing a significant increase in violent crime, with homicides spiking up more than 49%, reported gun crime up 23%, and aggravated assault shootings up over 19% compared to 2019.

In the City of Memphis, the Department of Justice will supplement state and local law enforcement agencies by deploying a total of 40 federal investigators, including 16 federal investigators to Memphis on temporary assignment for 90 days, followed by 24 permanent agent assignments from the FBI, DEA, ATF, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).