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How Chicago Is Reacting To Trump's Decision To Send Federal Agents To The CIty

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

More federal agents in more American cities. President Trump has announced he is expanding a plan to fight violent crime. Yesterday, he said he's sending federal agents and money to Chicago, Ill., Albuquerque, N.M., and Kansas City, Mo., with more cities to come. It's all part of a program that has been dubbed Operation Legend. This started up in Kansas City after a 4-year-old boy named LeGend Taliferro was killed. And then, protests followed. We're going to hear from Kansas City's mayor in a moment. But first, let's look at Chicago. The president has long targeted the city for not doing enough to stop violent crime.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This bloodshed must end. This bloodshed will end.

MARTIN: NPR's Cheryl Corley is with us now with more on this announcement from Chicago. Hi, Cheryl.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: Explain what you have been able to learn about the program.

CORLEY: Well, as you said, it started in Kansas City because of the death of the 4-year-old boy and the rising crime there or shootings. And this expansion is going to send about 200 agents from the FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies to Chicago and more than 30 to Albuquerque. The cities will also receive, as you mentioned, grants that will be used to hire more police.

President Trump says he had to take this step now because he had no choice. And he talked about mayors that he called extremists and the push by activists and others to defund the police. He says that's caused a shocking explosion of violence. And he often criticizes Chicago. And he pointed to Chicago as an example during this announcement as well.

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TRUMP: Perhaps no citizens have suffered more from the menace of violent crime than the wonderful people of Chicago, a city I know very well.

CORLEY: You know, overall, crime is actually down in Chicago, as it is in much of the country. But murders and shootings have been a big problem in certain neighborhoods here, as in other urban areas of the country.

MARTIN: So does this have nothing to do with what we saw in Portland, Ore., where these federal agents, often with no identification, were arresting protesters and taking them off in unmarked cars sometimes without probable cause? I mean, is just this a completely separate program?

CORLEY: Well, Attorney General William Barr says yes. He says that these folks will be engaged in classic crime fighting. He says for years, there have been federal taskforce working with local law enforcement. And these tactical teams - that these are tactical teams that were sent to Portland to protect federal buildings.

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WILLIAM BARR: These are street agents. They're investigators who will be working to solve murders and to take down the violent gangs.

CORLEY: So not about protests, he says, but about fighting crime.

MARTIN: What's Chicago's mayor saying about this now?

CORLEY: (Laughter). Well, she and the president have often been engaged in a war of words. But she seems guardedly open. Here's what she had to say.

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LORI LIGHTFOOT: If those agents are here to actually work in partnership on support of gun violence and violent cases, plugging into existing infrastructure of federal agents, not trying to play police in our streets, then that's something different. And that may add value.

MARTIN: And, I guess, we don't have any timeline, Cheryl, on when these troops are going to arrive or how long they'll be there.

CORLEY: Not yet, not yet.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Cheryl Corley from Chicago. We appreciate it, Cheryl. Thanks.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.