SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson is defending a decision to deploy 35 more federal agents to Albuquerque to address violent crime, urging the city’s Democratic mayor to embrace the effort.
A letter to the mayor Tuesday reiterated that the new agents will conduct “classic crime fighting” activities by augmenting existing federal task forces in Albuquerque.
President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced last week the new law enforcement deployment, with assurances it would not involve agents in tactical gear like those used to confront protesters in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrations have spiraled into violence. The plan was greeted warily by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said agents should be monitored to avoid civil rights violations.
Among Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s demands was a call for federal agents to be readily identifiable when making arrests and equipped with body-worn cameras.
Anderson suggested that would undermine the effectiveness of undercover agents.
“Many of the law enforcement operations that federal agents carry out in Albuquerque are successful precisely because they are undercover operations,” Anderson said.
An uneasy truce emerged Wednesday as Keller acknowledged assurances that the federal agents are not aimed at policing protests or civil unrest.
“The U.S. attorney has provided a written guarantee that Operation Legend will not be what we saw in Portland,” Keller said in a news release, invoking the nickname for the federal surge. “However, we remain concerned about the president’s own words that contradict these assurances.”
Trump says he wants to combat rising crime in cities including Chicago and Albuquerque as he runs for reelection under a “law-and-order” mantle, painting the Democrat-led cities as out of control.
Anderson emphasized high crime rates in Albuquerque, while acknowledging that 2020 crime statistics from the FBI are not yet available.