The Associated Press, Christina Rodriguez, Megan Abundis
Updated: July 22, 2020 10:26 PM
Created: July 22, 2020 01:18 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr announced Wednesday that federal agents will surge into several American cities including Albuquerque to help combat rising crime.
Barr said 35 federal agents, including FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals and officers with Homeland Security, will be sent to Albuquerque for Operation Legend.
"These investigators will be an add-on to the investigation crew that's already here," said Jim Langenberg, an FBI special agent in charge of the Albuquerque Division.
The program was created as a result of Trump's promise to assist America's cities that are plagued by recent violence.
The president mentioned the killing of Jacque Vigil. She was killed while warming up her car in Albuquerque. Vigil's family attended the announcement, and thanked the president for his efforts in fighting crime. Barr said the federal government will offer a reward to help find out who killed Vigil.
"It's just too important for this case to go unsolved," Langenberg said.
The president said the DOJ will also provide $61 million in grants to hire more police officers in cities that are part of Operation Legend. Albuquerque's portion of the money will go toward hiring 40 more officers. BCSO will be able to hire five more officers with the money.
Barr said this operation will not look like it does in Portland, where federal agents have faced off with protesters. He said this will be classic crime-fighting.
Langenberg echoed the same sentiment.
"There's a lot of confusion between what we're doing here in Albuquerque and what's going on in Portland. It's apples and oranges," he said.
The FBI said if there's a crime, there has to be a federal link like firearms, carjacking, drugs or gang structure. Special Agent Langenberg said agents are not coming to Albuquerque to investigate local crimes such as speeding.
In response, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General have announced a new civil rights monitoring program. According to a release, the office will target investigative and prosecutorial resources at any suspected civil rights violation stemming from federal law enforcement operations.
“If the Trump administration sincerely wishes to assist local law enforcement in our state in their regular community-policing activities, in data-driven crime-fighting initiatives, in protecting the public safety and welfare of New Mexicans, we would welcome the conversation," Lujan Grisham said. "If the Trump administration wishes to antagonize New Mexicans and Americans with authoritarian, unnecessary and unaccountable military-style ‘crackdowns,’ they have no business whatsoever in New Mexico."
Multiple New Mexico elected officials have said they don't want federal agents to come to Albuquerque.
District Attorney Raul Torrez said he wants a written agreement that these federal agents will stick to their traditional role of investigating organized crime, or he is prepared to go to court.
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