Monday, November 29, 2010

FBI Citizen’s Academy Week 6 - Violent Crime

As always, any errors here are mine, not the FBI’s.

The evening began with some information about FBI hiring. Last year they hired 914 special agents and 550 analysts, with a total hiring of 1988, including all support personnel. Despite the economy and cutbacks they are planning to hire something close to that number this year.

New jobs are posted at on Tuesdays. Sadly, you can’t be older than 37 to start the special agent training program. That lets me out.

They also have an honors internship program for college students, who must have a 3.0 GPA and be enrolled full-time in college. The program runs from May-August in both headquarters and certain field offices, and gives students an overview of what the FBI does.

This week was the one I think is going to be most relevant to the writing of crime novels, because the agent who spoke to us was from the violent crime squad, which encompasses most of the kind of crimes we write about.

We began with a discussion of crime on the high seas, for which the FBI has sole jurisdiction. The most prevalent crimes are assault and sexual assault (primarily on cruise ships) though also investigate murder, suicide, and high-end theft cases.

They have an emergency response team (ERT), mostly comprised of former law enforcement personnel, that go out to investigate the crimes on board, usually once the ship has docked.

They also investigate cargo theft; the biggest hub for ocean-borne cargo theft is here in Miami, because the cargo is exported through the Port of Miami. In the past they have found stolen cargo including truckloads of wheelchairs, portable toilets, electronics, cell phones, TVs, and even rubber duckies.

The investigation of art theft also comes under the jurisdiction of the violent crime squad. “If it has been stolen, it comes through Miami,” the agent said-- not that the art was stolen here, but it passes through here on its way to the eventual buyer. The intrastate nature of the theft is what brings it under the FBI’s jurisdiction.

There is an art theft registry-- a database of stolen art that helps agents figure out if a piece of art has been stolen. These agents get a lotof detailed training on detecting fraud in art work. I think this is a really interesting area and might like to investigate this more and perhaps write something.

I do have an agent character in mind-- he appears in my forthcoming M/M romance Mi Amor, set on South Beach, and due out from Loose Id in early 2011. There’s a minor character in that book, a red-headed special agent named Angus Green, and something about him intrigues me. I’ve been very happy that the opportunity to attend the FBI Academy came up now, as I’m thinking about how Angus can spin off into his own book, or his own series.

Art theft is definitely a possibility, as is jewelry theft, which is another area the violent crime squad is involved with. Primarily this is crime against jewelry distributors; there is a big trade show in October and many distributors are targeted. The FBI has a task force that works with local departments on these crimes.

The violent crime squad also works on bank robberies, fugitive apprehensions, armored car robberies, and kidnappings/extortions-- though these are rare. There have been numerous armored car robberies in South Florida lately, and bank robberies are common. The criminals know that bank employees are trained to give up the money without a fight, so they are easy targets. But the statistics we were shown indicate that there’s relatively little money stolen in each case-- sometimes only a few thousand dollars. Maybe it’s low risk, but certainly low reward as well.

As an American citizen, if you go to certain countries (Mexico and Haiti among them) you are a target for kidnapping. The FBI gets involved in these cases. They work a lot of email extortion crimes-- sometimes the victim is kidnapped and then released, but threatened with additional violence if he doesn’t cooperate and pay.

They also have one squad which focuses on crimes against children, including the Innocent Images Squad, which looks at child porn.

Most crimes, the agent indicated, are solved by the evidence and forensics. He mentioned a device called a Shot-Spotter, which can detect where a bullet was shot from using triangulation. He also mentioned the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes, or NCAVC. This group provides behavioral-based support in investigations-- what I guess we would call profiling.

No comments: