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Federal gun violence initiative unveiled in Indianapolis

August 14, 2020 GMT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Federal agents and resources have been sent to Indianapolis to support city police in their efforts to curb increasing gun violence, a senior prosecutor said Friday.

Fifty-seven federal agents and investigators will work with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in a 45-day initiative under the auspices of Operation Legend, which was unveiled in July in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said during a news conference. The initiative officially begins Friday.

The operation also makes available $250,000 for Indianapolis police overtime and $25,000 for rewards related to tips in unsolved homicides.

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Minkler said Operation Legend is “not a new strategy” but rather a surge of federal resources in direct response to the “acute levels of gun violence that Indianapolis is currently experiencing.” Officers will crack down on illegal drug and gun trafficking and domestic violence involving firearms, and will track down individuals with outstanding warrants.

The federal agents will focus on responding to shooting scenes and using ballistic evidence to identify and “remove trigger pullers from our streets.” Minkler promised prosecutors will request federal prison terms for those charged with a gun crime.

“There will be no plea bargains,” he said.

The operation is not a response to recent protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, nor is it about “swarming neighborhoods and randomly stopping and searching innocent civilians,” Minkler said.

He said Indianapolis has recorded 144 homicides in 2020, which is a 50% jump from this time last year and a continuation of a yearslong trend of increasing gun violence homicides in the city.

“That number is unacceptable. We have lost too many young people to violence,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said at the news conference. “Our job is to prevent the violence from happening in the first place. But it will take massive efforts — both preventative and punitive — for us to get through this unprecedented time.”

Indianapolis police welcome more federal resources, especially as officers have been responding to increasing numbers of “violent” calls, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor said. He said the police force will continue to work with community organizations and mental health experts during the operation to “approach obstacles to peace.”

“We know that enforcement alone will not prevent violence from occurring in our city,” Taylor said. “But those who robbed our citizens of their futures must be held accountable.”

Operation Legend coordinates federal, state and local law enforcement to fight increased gun violence in cities across the U.S. Over the last 30 days, the initiative has expanded to Chicago, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico, Detroit, Michigan; Cleveland, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; and Memphis, Tennessee.

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Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.