Oct 14, 2020
AG Bill Barr Press Conference Operation Legend Update Transcript October 14
AG Bill Barr and law enforcement officials held a press conference on October 14 to provide an update on Operation Legend’s status in New Mexico. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
John Anderson: (00:10)
Well, good morning everyone. And thank you for being here. My name is John Anderson, I’m the United States attorney, and it’s a pleasure to be joined today by Attorney General Barr and Deputy Director Bowdich and Sheriff Gonzalez, here to make some remarks about Operation Legend here in Albuquerque. So without further ado, let me turn it over to Attorney General Barr.
Attorney General Barr: (00:32)
Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank our state and local partners who have participated in Operation Legend, especially Sheriff Gonzalez, who I had the pleasure of joining at the White House when we announced Operation Legend and also Sam Vigil, whose wife Jackie was murdered here in Albuquerque and who inspired us to mount Operation Legend. She and other victims, like Legend Tolliver from Kansas City, made us feel that things were getting out of hand, and we really had to step in and try to help our state and local partners in a number of cities around the country that were experiencing surge in violent crime. So it’s good to see you Sam, thank you for coming, and I’m glad that a lot of progress has been made on your case.
Attorney General Barr: (01:35)
The backbone of Operation Legend are our joint task forces, where we work shoulder to shoulder, federal agents with our state and local partners on the task force that targets violent criminals. And here, we’ve had a very successful task force. 113 federal arrests, and many, many more state arrests. Legend is, as I said, in nine cities around the country, it’s a national program, and we take advantage not only of additional federal resources, but also of strong federal laws that target the most violent chronic offenders. Here in Albuquerque, we added 40 federal law enforcement officers, we repurposed some additional federal law enforcement officers, and we also dedicated some resources for additional police, $10 million, or 40 additional police. That has not yet been acted on by Albuquerque, so we hope that we can see that soon, and see this money that was meant for the protection of the people of Albuquerque. We’d like to see those 40 officers hired and on the beat and working to protect the people of community.
Attorney General Barr: (03:01)
I’d like to give you a little context about Legend. Violent crime is solvable. It’s not something people have to live with at the levels they’re living with it. And here in Albuquerque, Albuquerque has a violent crime rate that’s between three and four times the national average. That’s unacceptable in any American city, and it is a solvable problem. People have to remember that in 1992, violent crime was twice the level it is today, the highest level we’ve ever had in the United States in 1992. But we finally got smart and we realized that most predatory violence is committed by a relatively small group of repeat offenders, of chronic offenders, and whenever they’re on the streets, they will victimize people. And the first priority of law enforcement has to be to get these people off the streets, and get them into prison, and to protect people.
Attorney General Barr: (04:04)
And when you do that, crime goes down, it has worked every time, it is a tried and true solution to violent crime. Stop the revolving door and keep the chronic offenders off the street. Our problem back in 1992 was the problem we’re seeing here in Albuquerque today, which is revolving door justice at the state system. Many states, since 1992, have reformed their criminal justice systems and made them stronger. But we see some backsliding today. People forget what it was like when crime was twice the level it is today, and we can’t let that happen. We can’t accept the level of crime today. We have to continue to push down violent crime and get these predators off the street.
Attorney General Barr: (04:49)
The people will get what they pay for in law enforcement. If you want a professional effective police force, you have to make the investment in that, not defund the police force, but make an investment in the police force. And if you want to be safe, if you are tired of the blood and mayhem on the streets, then you have to start paying attention to who you vote for to retain as judges, to who you make DA, to whom you make mayor. And I’m saying this across the board, not just to the people in Albuquerque, it makes a difference. Because in many places in our country, the political establishment is not providing the support to law enforcement that it should.
Attorney General Barr: (05:42)
Now, because I said, Legend here has benefited from the close cooperation of the sheriff here, the Albuquerque police, the state police, and it needs the support of prosecutors. And we’ve had the support of the district attorney here. As I said, we would like to say the additional resources that we have provided Albuquerque, the $10 million for 40 additional police officers, we’d like to see that put to work. But by a combination of strong law enforcement targeting the chronic offenders, which we are now engaged in jointly with our state and local partners, and encouraging the kind of reform in the criminal justice system that will keep people who threaten the community behind bars, you can reduce violent crime. You can substantially reduce violent crime in our communities. And this is a top priority of the Department of Justice, and we will be as effective as we can be together with our partners. Thank you.
Dave Bowdich: (07:03)
Good morning. First off, I want to thank you all for coming so that we can discuss Operation Legend today. I’m Dave Bowdich with the FBI. I also want to thank the Attorney General for his force of personality and will and taking on the violent crime issues, not just in the city of Albuquerque, but throughout the country. Crime in a number of these cities has increased to very substantial levels, and Albuquerque is one of those, and that’s why we have spread out amongst nine cities throughout the United States. The origins of Legend were essentially because we believe firmly that the public deserves the right to live and not be in constant fear of being victimized by violent, career criminal offenders.
Dave Bowdich: (07:58)
Therefore, the Attorney General began Operation Legend and when he did so, he directed all his federal law enforcement components, to include the FBI, the ATF, the United States Marshal Service, and the DEA, and there’s also assistance being provided by the HSI from the Department of Homeland Security, to try to reduce violent crime in many of these cities throughout the country.
Dave Bowdich: (08:27)
So let me talk to you a little bit about how we do this. With all those different components, we all have different, but very complimentary, techniques and tactics that help bring the federal resources to bear on what is oftentimes a localized problem, but what can also spread throughout the various states and cities. In the FBI, we have a two-pronged strategy and that is both shorter term investigation, but also long-term investigations to use some of the lon-term drug statute or the federal drug statutes, the racketeering statutes, the Hobbs Act statutes, and those work in complimentary fashion to the resources that are brought to bear by the other federal agencies that are here, also combined with your state and local law enforcement officers here.
Dave Bowdich: (09:21)
So how do we do this? We do it in a number of ways. Simply enforcement actions, law enforcement actions, side-by-side, law enforcement standing shoulder to shoulder, no light between those shields, to take on this problem. And that’s what we have done. And when I say we, I mean all federal law enforcement and again, your state and local law enforcement. We’ve established tips and hotlines, we’re using rewards programs, we’re using digital forensics, mapping trends to show where these crime problems really are surfacing in the various communities throughout this country. I also look at it very much as a one team, one fight issue, and we have to show resilience, fortitude, and again, the Attorney General oftentimes uses the word will. And that’s what it takes.
Dave Bowdich: (10:08)
The US Attorney’s office throughout the country in these nine cities have been extraordinary. And these Assistant United States Attorneys have been very, very forceful in their aggressive prosecutions. And that is very, very helpful. I can go through a number of FBI stats. I’m not going to do that because we have other federal agencies represented here, but I will tell you, they are impressive, not just in the city of Albuquerque, but throughout the country.
Dave Bowdich: (10:43)
What we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to instill public confidence. So, law enforcement itself cannot solve this problem alone. This has to involve the community and it requires the community, and in this case, the city of Albuquerque and the citizens of Bernalillo County, and surrounding areas, to trust us. If convicted, for those of you out there who are involved in violent crimes, I want to let you know that if you are convicted of federal crimes, you’re not going to walk in the front door and out the back door of the prison. It’s 85% minimum. And that is a very helpful thing for those of you who decide to perpetuate violence on your community.
Dave Bowdich: (11:31)
Let me talk to you a little bit about the results, and I’m just going to provide a couple examples. First off in Kansas City, where we searched a number of resources. That’s one of the Op Legend cities we’ve had roughly a 30% reduction in violent crimes. I asked the other day what the quality of some of these arrests were, and at that time it was roughly 40 arrests of murderers throughout the country. That has probably even grown since then. There was a 15% reduction in homicides in Kansas City, there was a 24% reduction in strong armed robberies in Kansas City, and a 25% decrease in non-fatal shootings. These are significant statistics, but these require the community to work closely, hand in hand, with law enforcement.
Dave Bowdich: (12:20)
So I want to plead for help. First off, I want to tell the folks, the citizens of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, this is personal to me. So I speak from a national perspective as a Deputy Director of the FBI, but I started my career in law enforcement right here in 1991 as an Albuquerque police officer.
Dave Bowdich: (12:39)
So I still have family in this city and in this community, I’m a fourth generation Albuquerque, or New Mexican rather. And it’s very personal, and I was very pleased when the Department of Justice, the Attorney General, named Albuquerque as one of the cities, but we need the community’s help. Please trust us, please pick up the phone and trust us to do the right thing and to make sure we aggressively respond to your tips and your complaints. I am going to throw out a tip line for you. And I would ask you to call if you have tips and information about violent criminal behavior in and around your city, in your county, the number would be 1-800-CALLFBI, please call us. Thank you.
John Anderson: (13:28)
Well, good morning again, and I would like to begin my remarks this morning by expressing my gratitude to Attorney General Barr for, for recognizing the need for federal resource to combat violent crime in Albuquerque. I think that all of us recognize that we do have a stubbornly high violent crime rate here, and I’m very appreciative to General Barr’s, not only his recognition of that fact, but his commitment of federal law enforcement resources and the resources of the Department of Justice to assist us in our collective struggle against violent crime. So General Barr, thank you.
John Anderson: (14:04)
I am likewise exceedingly grateful to the federal and state and local law enforcement agencies that have comprised the task forces that have been doing the real hard work behind Operation Legend. So that includes the FBI, the DEA, United States Marshal Service, ATF, Homeland Security Investigations, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office, New Mexico State Police, and the Albuquerque Police Department.
John Anderson: (14:33)
Again, it’s those individuals on the ground who are doing the real heavy lifting to combat the violent crime problem that we here in Albuquerque need so desperately to make meaningful headway against. So, thanks to all of you for your hard work in implementing Operation Legend here in Albuquerque.
John Anderson: (14:53)
These efforts, these law enforcement efforts, have made a real difference here in Albuquerque. Under Operation Legend, we have initiated federal prosecutions of over a hundred defendants who, as Attorney General Barr mentioned, we believe are drivers of dangerous crime in our communities. We have also made strides toward resolving outstanding and otherwise unsolved crimes, including the senseless murder of Jackie Vigil almost one year ago today, and I’m very grateful to be joined this afternoon by, this morning by Jackie’s family.
John Anderson: (15:25)
As you know, another integral part of Operation Legend that Attorney General Barr mentioned is the allocation of up to $10 million to the city of Albuquerque for the hiring of additional police officers. And indeed the Department of Justice recognizes that while it can and should support state and local law enforcement in their efforts to combat violent crime, the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement cannot supplant those departments as the first line of defense against violent crime. Despite having applied for and been awarded these funds for the hiring of 40 additional police officers, and the City Council having passed a resolution authorizing the acceptance of the award, the city has not yet signed and accepted that award. And as a result, the city is no closer to seeing the hiring of those additional 40 officers. And I can say I’m disappointed by this continued inaction on the part of the city.
John Anderson: (16:22)
So while the federal resources can help to reduce violent crime, again, the principal responsibility rests with state and local law enforcement. And so what remains my hope that the city will show the same urgency and dedication to addressing this problem as has the Attorney General. And once again, I thank the Attorney General for being here with us today, I thank him for supporting state and local law enforcement in New Mexico. And I will now turn it over to Sheriff Gonzalez for his remarks.
Sheriff Gonzlez: (16:54)
First of all, I just wanted to thank all the federal leaders that are taking part in today’s visit. More so I’d like to personally think the Attorney General for understanding and listening to us as we framed the crime issue here in Albuquerque. He listened and what that means in terms of understanding how government works is he truly understands that it works from the bottom up, and we have a community problem here that is four times greater than most other cities in America, and we have all had the opportunity to frequent those, and I believe that Albuquerque is a wonderful and beautiful place to live, and it can be so much better, but it’s going to take a community effort and I can’t thank you enough for the resources, more so the human resources, all the federal leaders that you sent to our aid.
Sheriff Gonzlez: (17:46)
They visit with me frequently, they’ve met every demand and every request, and to kind of parallel that effort, we want to make sure that we’re doing our diligence in that effort. So I just recently had 40 more deputies sworn in by the US Marshal in this effort. And to me, this is just a start. This relationship isn’t a short-term relationship, this is a long-term, sustainable relationship that we need here in Albuquerque, so that Albuquerque can thrive. And we’ve given up so much in terms of the quality of life and everything we’ve lost, and our ability to go to the store or go to a park.
Sheriff Gonzlez: (18:29)
This morning, we held a briefing here for one of our group operations, and we like to have the public there because you’re truly right, Deputy Director, about which that it takes the community to be mobilized. But when they’re telling me that they can’t go to a park because the children are afraid, because there’s people camping out, or accosting them, or harassing them every time they turn the corner, then we’ve lost the quality of life. So this is definitely a community effort and it’s a sustainable and doable effort, and we do have the will. And if at some point the city doesn’t want the 40 people, I’ll gladly take them. And the other thing I’ll tell you is that don’t defund the police, fund your local sheriff. Okay. Thank you.
John Anderson: (19:19)
Thanks. Thank you, Sheriff Gonzalez. That concludes the public and media portion of our meeting today. So thank you again for being here.