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US President Donald Trump and attorney general William Barr.
US President Donald Trump and attorney general William Barr.
Image: PA

Donald Trump sending ‘surge’ of federal agents into US cities

Hundreds have already been sent to Kansas City to help quell violence.
Jul 22nd 2020, 10:36 PM 42,556 77

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, have announced that US federal agents will surge into the cities of Chicago and Albuquerque to help combat rising crime.

This is an expansion of the administration’s intervention in local enforcement as Trump runs for re-election under a ‘law-and-order’ mantle.

Hundreds of federal agents already have been sent to Kansas City, Missouri, to help quell a record rise in violence.

Sending federal agents to help localities is not uncommon.

Barr announced a similar surge effort in December for seven cities that had seen spiking violence.

Usually, the Justice Department sends agents under its own umbrella, like agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

But this surge effort will include at least 100 Department of Homeland Security Investigations officers working in the region who generally conduct drug trafficking and child exploitation investigations.

DHS officers have already been dispatched to Portland, Oregon, and other localities to protect federal property and monuments as Trump has lambasted efforts by protesters to knock down Confederate statutes.

Trump has linked the growing violence in the streets with protests over racial injustice, though criminal justice experts say the spike defies easy explanation.

The experts instead point to the unprecedented moment the country is living through, a pandemic that has killed more than 140,000 Americans, historic unemployment, stay-at-home orders, a mass reckoning over race and police brutality, intense stress and even the weather.

And compared with other years, crime is down overall.

Increased tensions

Local authorities have complained that the surges in federal agents have only exacerbated tensions on the streets.

The decision to dispatch federal agents to American cities is playing out at a hyper-politicised moment when Trump is trying to show he is a ‘law-and-order’ president and painting Democratic-led cities as out of control.

With less than four months to go before election day, Trump has been serving up dire warnings that the violence would worsen if his Democratic rival Joe Biden is elected in November, as he tries to win over voters who could be swayed by that message.

But civil unrest in Portland only escalated after federal agents there were accused of whisking people away in unmarked cars without probable case.

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The spike in crime has hit hard in some cities with resources already stretched thin from the pandemic.

But the move to send in federal forces was initially rejected by local leaders.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot later said she and other local officials had spoken with federal authorities and come to an understanding.

“I’ve been very clear that we welcome actual partnership,” the Democratic mayor said Tuesday after speaking with federal officials.

“But we do not welcome dictatorship.

“We do not welcome authoritarianism, and we do not welcome unconstitutional arrest and detainment of our residents.

“That is something I will not tolerate.”

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