Operation Legend, a federal initiative to reduce gun violence in Indianapolis, has been extended beyond its planned 45-day duration.
The operation was announced Aug. 14 as an accelerated collaboration between local police and federal agents to tackle gun violence, drug trafficking and gang activity. Operation Legend was first deployed in Kansas City in response to increased violence and has since gone to cities such as Indianapolis, Chicago, Cleveland and Memphis.
Wednesday marked the 45th day of the operation, but on Thursday, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Josh Minkler told IndyStar it would be extended indefinitely.
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Minkler noted the surge of federal resources is not sustainable long term, but that the results so far pushed him to extend the operation for as long as feasible.
“I’m asking them to stay as long as they can, because the results have been so encouraging,” Minkler said. “If I could, I’d have it continue forever.”
More: Operation Legend: What critics and supporters say
Minkler previously told IndyStar there are 57 federal agents dedicated to Operation Legend in Indianapolis. That includes agents who were already working in Marion County and around 17 agents who were brought in from other areas. There are also local police officers on existing federal task forces helping with the operation.
Spokespeople for Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Department said Operation Legend helps complement community-based efforts.
“IMPD remains focused on building partnerships with community-based groups to prevent crime while also holding accountable the small number of people responsible for a large portion of violence in our neighborhoods,” IMPD spokesperson Aliya Wishner said in a statement.
Operation Legend results in 45 days
When Operation Legend was announced, local leaders cited a record number of homicides. At the time, Indianapolis was experiencing a 51% increase in homicides and a more than 34% increase in non-fatal shootings. As of Thursday, there have been 145 criminal homicides in 2020, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Officials said the surge of federal money, manpower and intelligence was meant to tackle gun violence, drug trafficking and gang activity.
To date, 57 people have been charged across 48 federal cases in Operation Legend in Indianapolis. Minkler said the following contraband has been seized: 176 guns, more than 1,500 grams of heroin, nearly 22,500 grams of methamphetamine and 1,211 grams of fentanyl.
Minkler said he was “shocked” by the amount of fentanyl, a substance deadlier than heroin, that has been seized.
“It’s unknown how that contributes to gun violence,” Minkler said. “But I can tell you that that drug when used does lead to a lot of overdoses, which also can be fatal.”
Additionally, US Marshals have served warrants for 10 homicides in Marion County. That number includes warrants issued by other counties and states.
Minkler said in the 45 days before Operation Legend, there were 39 homicides. In the first 45 days of the operation, there were 25 homicides, a 35% reduction. How much Operation Legend impacted those numbers is hard to know.
“Rather than getting into correlation or causation because those are difficult concepts, I’ll say this: there were 176 guns on the street before we started, and those guns are not on the streets [any longer],” Minkler said. “I believe that has some impact on gun violence.”
Minkler said preliminary numbers also show a 17% reduction in non-fatal shootings.
‘Not long enough’
Keith “Wildstyle” Paschall, a west-side music producer and photographer, previously called Operation Legend a “propaganda campaign to make the public feel like somebody’s doing something about public safety.”
Paschall said Thursday that he’s happy so much fentanyl was taken off the streets, but he’s not convinced the seized guns will have a big impact on homicides.
“There’s more guns in America than there are people. That’s not a lot of guns for how many people we have,” he said, adding a friend of his just lost her 19-year-old son and he knows others who have been impacted by gun violence.
“Forty-five days is not long enough to gauge an effect…”
Paschall said issues like poverty need to be addressed in order to have a real impact on gun violence. Minkler said he understands that sentiment, but that “it’s not an either/or situation.”
He told IndyStar the Department of Justice recently approved a nearly $1 million grant for the Indiana Department of Corrections. The goal is to help reduce recidivism “and reduce the number of crimes committed by those under probation and parole supervision.”
“That’s one way, in a significant way, that our office is partnering with our state and local governments to address these issues,” Minkler said.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Federal law enforcement operation in Indianapolis extended indefinitely