A monthlong law enforcement sweep aimed at fighting violent crime in major U.S. cities has resulted in the arrests of more than 1,500 fugitives, violent criminals, sex offenders and gang members, officials announced Wednesday.
The initiative, “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, 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.
“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 homed in on “the most dangerous criminals who cause the most harm.”
The announcement came two days after a 21-year-old gunman shot and killed seven people and wounded dozens of others at a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois. The suspect, Robert Crimo III, was charged with seven counts of murder on Wednesday. He is expected to face dozens of additional charges, a local prosecutor said.
No federal charges are expected. Garland and other Justice Department officials did not take questions from reporters about Operation North Star or the Highland Park shooting.
Mass shootings of the kind that rocked Highland Park have been on the rise in recent months, but they represent a small fraction of total gun crimes in the United States. Most such crimes are carried out by repeat offenders, prompting periodic law enforcement sweeps such as Operation North Star.
In the nation’s capital, for example, a recent study found that “no more than 200” people were responsible for as much as 60% to 70% of all gun violence in the city at a given time.
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, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All three are components of the Justice Department.
Among those arrested was Rashaan Vereen, 34, a fugitive suspect in a June 4 mass shooting in Philadelphia that left three people dead and 11 others injured, officials said.
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 with 2021 and up 44% compared with 2019, according to the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice. Several cities set records.
Violent crime tends to edge higher during the summer. While the overall violent crime rate is rising, 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 it was at its peak in the 1990s.