MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - U.S Attorney General William Barr paid a visit to Memphis on Wednesday to meet with local law enforcement officials and to provide an update on Operation Legend, the federal initiative to combat violent crime in a handful of major cities.
It was Attorney General Barr’s second visit to Memphis within the past year to address the city’s violent crime.
His visit came as the city deals with a record number of homicides.
Memphis broke a homicide record last month and violence continues to plague the city on a nightly basis, something Barr acknowledged during his appearance before MPD officers at the Ridgeway Police Station.
“The number of homicides this year is higher, but in Operation Legend we have apprehended 23 homicide suspects,” said Barr.
Operation Legend started in July in Kansas City before expanding to other cities like Memphis.
Barr said Operation Legend has resulted in 5,500 arrests nationwide.
He said 1,100 suspects had been charged with federal crimes, including 64 suspects in Memphis.
“So, while we can acknowledge that we’re not the only solution, I think people have to recognize there can’t be a solution without us, without law enforcement,” said Barr.
The nation’s top law enforcement official said he realizes Memphis has challenges, evident by the violent crime numbers.
“I know in Memphis some of the crime has proven to be particularly stubborn. The homicide rate is still very high,” said Barr.
Barr listed COVID-19 and what he described as the demonization of the police by the national media as factors in making the job of police officers tougher.
“Part of that climate is characterized by media coverage that often distorts the work of the police,” said Barr.
Barr said progress has been made though in addressing violence, pointing to lower rates in certain types of robberies and major property crimes.
He said officers had also removed thousands of weapons from the streets.
But he said there is more work to do to make the nation’s cities safer.
“We’re looking forward to continue these joint operations and joint work to address violent crime and to protect the lives of people in Memphis,” said Barr.
Barr’s remarks only lasted about five minutes. He took no questions from reporters.
After meeting privately with police officers, Barr’s motorcade was confronted by protesters as he left Ridgeway Police Station.
Protesters also confronted U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant when he left the police station a short time later.