Three years after the September 11 terrorist attacks made counterterrorism the FBI’s top priority, the bureau is returning in part to street crime, says U.S. News & World Report. The FBI is planning a broad new attack against gangs based on frightening intelligence assessments of the changing face of the problem. FBI Director Robert Mueller will unveil the strategy and the reasoning behind it in “A Report to the American People on Gangs.” The bureau will respond to what Mueller calls the growing “barbarity and the willingness to utilize homicide, torture, and assaults in furtherance of violent gang activities.”
The plan stems in part from the entreaties of police chiefs like Los Angeles’s William Bratton, who described gangs as a “sleeping tiger” to Mueller in a conversation last year. “Outside of New York, al Qaeda isn’t killing people [in the United States]; gang violence is,” Bratton told his old friend. After dropping dramatically in the late 1990s, gang-related killings have again reached alarming levels, not only in Los Angeles but also places like Denver, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Long Island, N.Y., and Washington, D.C.’s Virginia suburbs. The bureau will centralize gang investigations at FBI headquarters, reclassify gangs from “violent criminal offenders” to “criminal organizations and enterprises,” placing them on a par with the traditional organized crime families, and use federal racketeering statutes and tough federal sentences successfully employed against the Mafia to dismantle entire gang organizations. The FBI will create new field gang task forces nationwide and convert most of the 140 Safe Streets violent crime task forces into units that specifically target gangs, U.S. News says, as well as establish a $10 million national gang intelligence center at FBI headquarters.