FBI criminal cases down by nearly half since Sept. 11 attacks
WASHINGTON – The FBI is investigating only about half the criminal cases it did before the Sept. 11 attacks because of its focus on stopping terrorist attacks.Investigations of financial fraud, bank robberies and some drug cases have suffered as a result, but other federal agencies as well as state and local law enforcement have picked up the slack in most areas, Justice Department inspector general Glenn A. Fine said Monday.”This reprioritization has affected not only the FBI’s operations but also the investigative operations of other law enforcement agencies,” Fine said.The FBI did not immediately comment.Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks and FBI Director Robert Mueller’s decision to make counterterrorism the bureau’s top priority, the decline in traditional criminal investigations was steepest in drug cases and extended to organized crime, bank robberies, civil rights, health care fraud, corporate fraud and public corruption, Fine said in a 194-page audit.Portions he said contained sensitive law enforcement information were blacked out.Among the FBI’s traditional criminal investigations, gang, obscenity and child pornography cases increased, Fine said. The report looked at cases opened and the deployment of agents in the 2000 government spending year – the last full year before the attacks – and in 2004.The FBI opened 62,782 criminal investigations in 2000 and 34,451 last year, a drop of 45 percent, Fine said. Drug cases declined by 70 percent, he said.There were 2,200 fewer field agents investigating criminal matters in 2004, he said.Drugs squads in some FBI field offices have been decimated. The Miami office lost six of its nine drug squads between 2000 and 2004. In Los Angeles, 57 of the 79 agents focusing on drug cases were reassigned.”FBI field managers reported that the timeliness and quality of such investigations has been impaired,” the report said. The Drug Enforcement Administration has filled the gap in some cities, the report said.State and local law enforcement officials said they feel the effect of changes at the FBI most keenly in complex financial fraud cases that the FBI handled before Sept. 11.Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, disputed that the new focus on terrorism has meant that other crimes go uninvestigated.”Ninety-six percent of law enforcement assets in this country are at the state and local level,” said Pasco, who runs the nation’s largest union for law enforcement officers.The Justice Department also has directed DEA and other federal agencies to take more responsibility for crimes in their domains, Pasco said.Vail, Colorado
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”