Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
In addition to the highly-publicized Operation Legend – billed as a way to strengthen partnerships between local and federal agencies – the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has been steadily increasing the number of deputies it has assigned to federal task forces.
In a news conference Monday with the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico John Anderson, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said while the collaboration is not new, it is something he has put a concerted effort toward. He said a total of 26 BCSO detectives are assigned full time to task forces with the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and 25 are assigned part time to the Marshals Service.
“We decided to invest more of our human resources to these task forces because we feel like we’re getting more mileage or bang for our buck from these prosecutions,” Gonzales said. “It’s having more of an impact of holding these people accountable.”
The task force investigations are more likely to result in federal prosecutions – which typically bring harsher penalties than state prosecutions.
“We are proud to be working closely with state and local law enforcement including the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to accept for prosecution those federal offenses that we collectively believe will have the greatest impact on violent crime,” Anderson said. “We recognize the violent crime issues we’re facing in most cases are driven by a small number of actors and if they can be addressed through an effective prosecution mechanism that will have a material effect on the safety of our communities and residents.”
U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump unveiled Operation Legend over the summer as a way to fight violent crime in select cities across the country.
Gonzales said although Barr has tendered his resignation from the Department of Justice, he expects the work being done under the initiative to continue into next year.
Altogether the task forces made more than 670 arrests in 2020, according to Capt. David Funes with BCSO’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Although Funes and Gonzales credited the arrests and the task forces with decreases in violent and property crime in 2020, in response to questions Funes admitted the decrease could be due to the delay in this year’s stats, which are usually a couple of weeks behind as it takes time for reports to come in.