The Justice Department said Wednesday it is sending additional federal agents and investigators to Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee, expanding an initiative aimed at helping local and state authorities tackle a spike in violent crime.
The anti-crime operation is similar to ones launched in current and past administrations, and usually are not the source of controversy. But President Donald Trump has made the issue of crime and law enforcement a focus of his reelection campaign, accusing Democratic-run cities of being weak on the issue, prompting some mayors and governors to push back at federal efforts.
The dozens of agents and investigators being dispatched in the coming weeks are from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the US Marshals Service.
They will work on gun and other criminal cases previously identified as within federal jurisdiction in coordination with local and federal prosecutors. Justice officials previously announced that hundreds of federal officers were being sent to Chicago, Kansas City and Albuquerque as part of an initiative called Operation Legend.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that as part of the Legend initiative, “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.”
The Justice Department said it will also provide millions of dollars in funding to the cities to help anti-crime measures and to hire additional local officers.
Some critics have conflated the anti-crime initiative with the separate weeks-long standoff between federal officers and late-night rioters outside of the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Largely peaceful protests there have devolved into violent daily confrontations with the federal equivalent of SWAT teams protecting the courthouse.
Federal law enforcement officials have also worried that the activities in Portland are making it more difficult to conduct regular coordination with local police departments.
Oregon announced Thursday that some federal officers from Customs and Border Protection agency are being replaced by state police.