Baltimore will receive its share of the "peace dividend" in the form of 18 additional FBI agents to investigate violent crime in the region, according to the agent heading the agency's Maryland-Delaware office.
"We plan to help take the streets back," said Bobby R. Gillham, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore regional office. "We can step in and assist local police departments with our investigative resources."
With the demise of large spy agencies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the FBI is cutting back on the number of agents devoted to counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations and putting them into investigating violent, gang-related street crime.
As part of the national FBI reallocation of agents announced yesterday in Washington, Special Agent Gillham said the number of agents in the Maryland-Delaware division working on violent crimes will rise to 54 from the current level of 36.
There are about 200 agents in the FBI's Maryland-Delaware division, which means about one quarter of them will be focused on fighting violent crime.
Special Agent Gillham declined to reveal the number of agents that had been working on counterintelligence, saying it was classified.
However, he said that violent crimes would replace counterintelligence as the office's second-ranking priority. Investigation of white-collar crime -- embezzlements, government fraud, political corruption -- will continue to be the first priority of the Baltimore office.
Nationally, the FBI will redeploy about 325 agents from counterintelligence to violent crimes, Special Agent Gillham said.
"We'll take all the help we can get," said Lt. Robert Stanton of the Baltimore police homicide squad. He said the FBI could provide additional investigative and intelligence resources to a department that has to cope with a high level of violent crimes.
The redeployment doesn't mean that FBI agents will be walking beats with Baltimore police officers, Special Agent Gillham said.
However, they can pursue suspects that have fled the city and can provide intelligence on groups and gangs using violence.
The FBI and the Baltimore Police Department already cooperate on certain cases.
For instance, when Joanne Curbeam, 30, and her aunt, Helen Davis, 39, were gunned down at the corner of Gold and Division streets Christmas night, the FBI immediately obtained warrants to search for the gunmen, thought to have fled to New York.
If the Baltimore homicide detectives had pursued the gunmen, they would have lost the authority to arrest them once they left Baltimore. With the FBI, jurisdictional problems don't occur because they have nationwide authority.
Special Agent Gillham said that within the next couple of weeks, he would have "a violent-crime summit" with police from Baltimore, Baltimore County and Prince George's County to develop plans on how best to use the additional FBI agents.
While police departments publicly welcomed the additional FBI agents, some officers said the FBI doesn't have such a great track record in dealing with urban, drug-related violent crime.
In the past, many FBI offices placed more importance on dealing with the violence associated with large-scale international drug organizations such as the Mafia and the Colombian drug cartels.
City drug gangs were left to local police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
But Special Agent Gillham said that the same knowledge and techniques used to investigate the large international drug organizations can be applied to the smaller ones operating in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas.
Here's how many more FBI agents are expected to be deployed to help investigate gang-related violent crime in Northeastern cities:
City.. .. .. .. ..Present.. .. .. .. .. .. Projected
Baltimore.. .. .. .. . 36.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 54
New York.. .. .. .. .. 77.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 99
Washington.. .. .. ... 41.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 57
Philadelphia.. .. .. . 46.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 60
Pittsburgh.. .. .. ... 29.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 32