Seattle local law-enforcement officials told Sen. Patty Murray yesterday that a shortage of FBI agents in Washington state is making it harder to investigate, solve, and prosecute the growing number of cybercrimes they’re seeing, reports the Seattle Times. Identity thieves, online sexual predators, credit-card fraudsters, and increasingly mobile and technologically savvy car-theft gangs are problems that city police, county sheriffs, and even the State Patrol cannot get ahead of without more federal help, Murray was told.
Murray is working to increase federal spending in order to get FBI staffing levels for nonterrorist crimes back up to where they were before Sept. 11. She said that 2,400 agents nationwide were moved from traditional FBI crime-fighting areas – such as bank fraud – to counterterrorism efforts after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and those levels were never replenished. “The [FBI] has lost its ability to take a leadership role with very complex white-collar crime investigations,” Gale Evans, deputy chief of the Port of Seattle police and a former FBI agent, told Murray. Evans said the 30-member Seattle FBI team is down 18 people, and that new staff planned for this year is already earmarked for anti-terrorism work. “Terrorism is significant,” he said. “But we also have [other] crimes that affect us.” Kate Pflaumer, former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, said white-collar criminal cases among local police are languishing: “We have a crisis.”