The nation’s top drug cop says Detroit’s crime problem got so bad this summer that the feds had to come and help right away, and that President Donald Trump’s campaign has nothing to do with their presence in Michigan.
“Politics has nothing to do with this,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Timothy Shea said during a Wednesday visit to Detroit.
“There’s nothing political about a 50% increase in aggravated assaults. There’s nothing political about the 370 people who were shot (here)
in the last two months … Should I have waited before the election is over?” said Shea, defending the federal government’s intervention in Detroit under a White House initiative dubbed “Operation LeGend.”
The operation, which involves sending 42 federal agents to Detroit, has raised skepticism and criticism locally by many who believe the effort is a political ploy to win Trump votes. They also question the timing of Operation LeGend: Trump launched it three months before the November election from the White House and criticized many of the Democratic leaders in the city he was sending help to.
Shea, however, says the DEA isn’t interested in politics, but in taking down drug lords and dismantling the Mexican cartel that he says is wreaking havoc on Detroit.
“We didn’t invent the violent crime problem,” said Shea, who scoffed at critics who believe federal law enforcement is in Detroit and elsewhere to help Trump get elected.
“I don’t think these criticisms are valid,” Shea said during an interview with the Free Press, saying Operation LeGend is “absolutely not a political tool.”
Detroit has a serious crime problem largely fueled by drugs that got even worse during the pandemic, Shea said, and the local police need federal help.
“The cartels? Their representatives are here in Detroit today. Detroit itself cannot handle that kind of invasion of the city by drug cartels,” Shea said, stressing the city has many “sophisticated drug operatives that are armed to the ‘T.’ ”
More: As gun violence escalates in Detroit, are federal agents the answer?
Shea’s visit comes one week after U.S. Attorney
General William Barr visited Detroit to check on the progress of Operation LeGend, which is supported by Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan.
It also comes following a weekend of unrest in downtown Detroit, where 42 demonstrators were arrested while protesting Operation Legend.
Like Barr, Shea also toured the city by helicopter and also saw some of Detroit’s blighted neighborhoods closer up from a vehicle, including an area near City Airport.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” Shea said. “I always think about the people who live there.”
Shea, though, didn’t meet any Detroiters during the neighborhood tour, but said that he will be meeting with residents when he visits Seattle next week.
“I would like to meet with more people … people who live in those areas,” Shea said, referring to potential future visits to Detroit neighborhoods.
Shea was named the DEA Acting Administrator in May. Since then, he has visited numerous cities across the country. His latest stop was Detroit, where he also met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, toured their investigative operations along the U.S.-Canada border, visited the Selfridge Air National Guard base and met with Detroit police officials.
According to Shea, when it comes to drugs and drug violence, Detroit ranks among the hardest hit cities in the U.S. and that drugs fuel most of the city’s violent crimes. He said meth in particular appears to be on the rise in Detroit, though he didn’t have statistics.
Of particular concern, Shea said, is the mixing of drugs with fentanyl, which is contributing to a rise in drug overdose deaths across metro Detroit.
Shea also discussed the role the pandemic has had on drug use and drug crimes. There is anecdotal evidence across the country of people using more drugs because they have more time on their hands, and, because drug treatment centers have been shut down, he said. This in turn creates more violence, he said, noting “there are very few people who commit most of the cr…