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Justice Dept. operation targeting violent crime nets 1,500 arrests

Operation North Star focused on fugitives and criminals in 10 cities, including D.C., Chicago and New York

First responders are seen June 19 at the intersection of 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington after multiple people were shot, including a police officer. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)
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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday hailed a month-long federal operation that led to the arrest of 1,500 fugitives and suspected sex offenders and gang members in 10 large U.S. cities, pledging that the Justice Department will do more to confront surging rates of violent crime.

The U.S. Marshals Service focused Operation North Star on municipalities with high rates of homicides and gun violence, including D.C., Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore. The effort aimed to apprehend those believed to have committed the most violent offenses, prioritizing suspects who allegedly used firearms, officials said.

Garland, who was briefed on the operation Wednesday morning, hailed the effort as a step toward protecting communities and ending “the plague of gun violence.”

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Speaking briefly to reporters, Garland noted that he grew up in Chicago, not far from suburban Highland Park, where a gunman opened fire during an Independence Day parade Monday, killing seven people and injuring others.

“It’s just another horrific reminder of the violence, the gun violence, that we face and we must do everything in our power to end,” he said. “We don’t need any more reminders of this.”

The Marshals Service launched the operation in June, apprehending suspects allegedly involved in 230 homicide counts and 131 sexual assault counts, officials said. Investigators seized 166 firearms, more than $53,600 in currency, and more than 33 kilograms of illegal narcotics.

Amid a spike in gun violence, Garland has sought to bolster public confidence that the Justice Department is doing more to combat rising crime. Last year, he announced the creation of special task forces in several cities to target gun trafficking.

Operation North Star also focused on Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

Among those arrested were three suspects in a mass shooting in Philadelphia last month, after a fistfight escalated into gun violence. Authorities also arrested Jose Galiano-Meza, 28, suspected in the hit-and-run death of a 10-year-old girl in Kansas, as well as Dionte Mitchell, 22, charged with two counts of homicide in the fatal shooting of two women after a dispute at a party in South Carolina last year.

The goal of the initiative, Garland said, was “to remove from the streets those individuals who are the most significant drivers of violent crime. We find this to be the most successful and swiftest way to bring that violence under control.”