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Federal violent crime initiative results in more than 1,500 arrests across US over last 3 months

Project Safeguard combines the efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement

Acting DEA Administrator Tim Shea (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A Drug Enforcement Administration initiative to combat violent crime has resulted in more than 1,500 arrests across the U.S. over the last three months, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Since the operation launched in August, law enforcement agents have arrested 1,521 suspects in both state and federal cases — including almost 40 fugitives — seized 2,135 firearms, and seized nearly $24 million in assets, according to acting DEA Administrator Tim Shea.

In a news release about the operation, the DEA noted the goal of the project is to work in cooperation with state and local law enforcement to "identify and prioritize ongoing drug trafficking investigations with a nexus to violent crime."

The agency plans to accomplish this by primarily focusing efforts on three areas:

  • Disrupting, dismantling, and destroying the most significant violent drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States;
  • Increasing collaboration with ATF to ensure effective federal prosecution of firearms traffickers associated with drug trafficking organizations; and
  • Prioritizing the capture of DEA fugitives who employ violence as part of drug trafficking.

"Drug trafficking and violent crime are inextricably linked," Shea said in announcing the operation. "From the extreme levels of violence in Mexican cartels, to the open air drug markets in American cities, drug traffickers employ violence, fear, and intimidation to ply their trade. Neighborhoods across our country are terrorized by violent drug trafficking organizations that have little regard for human life, and profit from the pain and suffering of our people. Along with our law enforcement partners, DEA is committed to safeguarding the health and safety of our communities."

The effort is similar to another initiative, Operation Legend, which was also launched by the Department of Justice earlier this year. Both initiatives aim to combine the efforts federal and local law enforcement in order to stem the rise in violent crime in America's cities.

Under Project Safeguard, the agency implemented structural changes that allow it to focus efforts on violent crime and target larger drug networks and cartels.

According to the AP report, some of the changes include "assigning specific coordinators in each [DEA] field office for violent crime and working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace guns that are used in drug crimes or by suspected drug traffickers."

Combating violent crime has been a major campaign theme for President Trump's reelection, especially as the country has experienced an uptick in violence this year due in part to the coronavirus lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests.

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