A 30-day law enforcement sweep aimed at fighting violent crime in major U.S. cities has resulted in the arrest of more than 1,500 fugitives, violent criminals, sex offenders, and gang members, officials announced on Wednesday.
The initiative, dubbed “Operation North Star,” was carried out by the U.S. Marshals Service in June and targeted 10 urban centers that have seen a spike in homicides and shootings in recent years.
The targeted cities were Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington.
Officials said the operation focused on fugitives wanted for serious, violent offenses, including homicide, sexual assault or robbery.
“The Justice Department is committed to doing everything we can to protect our communities from violent crime and end the plague of gun violence,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at the Justice Department Wednesday.
“Operation North Star reflects the approach we are taking across the department to work in partnership with law enforcement agencies and communities to identify and hold accountable those responsible for the greatest violence,” Garland said.
U.S. Marshals Service Director Ronald Davis said the operation “honed in on the most dangerous criminals who cause the most harm.”
Law enforcement officials and criminologists say such targeted arrests can be part of an effective crime fighting strategy because the lion’s share of gun violence is often committed by a small number of repeat offenders.
In the nation’s capital, for example, a recent study found that just a couple of hundred people were responsible for as much as 60% to 70% of all gun violence in the city.
Operation North Star is part of the Justice Department’s broader effort to combat violent crime in major U.S. cities.
Aiding the crackdown are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All three are components of the Justice Department.
Homicides and shootings have surged across the United States over the past two years, exacerbated by pandemic-related trends and other factors.
Last year, the number of homicides in 22 major U.S. cities was up 5% compared to 2021 and up 44% compared to 2019, according to the non-partisan Council on Criminal Justice.
Violent crime tends to edge higher during the summer. While the overall violent crime rate remains high, several major cities, including New York, Chicago and Indianapolis, have reported a decline of as much as 10% in homicides so far this year.
Despite the recent surge, U.S. violent crime remains substantially lower than its peak in the 1990s.