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What We Investigate

What We Investigate

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The FBI works around the globe to combat the most dangerous criminal and security threats facing our country—from international and domestic terrorists to spies on U.S. soil…from cyber villains to corrupt government officials…from mobsters to violent street thugs…from child predators to serial killers.

We currently have jurisdiction over violations in more than 200 categories of federal law. They generally fall under our three national security priorities and our five criminal priorities as follows:


National Security Priorities:

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack

It’s our overriding priority—to head off terrorist attacks by identifying and disrupting the plots of international and domestic terrorist operatives and cells, by cutting off terrorist financing and undercutting other forms of support provided by terrorist sympathizers, by sharing information and intelligence with partners worldwide, and by providing strategic and operational threat analysis to decision makers and the wider intelligence community.

The Detroit Division, one of the FBI’s larger field offices, has three counterterrorism squads that are broken down according to the organizations they cover and geographic areas of the world. Squad members investigate terrorist threats against the U.S. posed by international organizations; they also work to identify, investigate, and disrupt those sponsored by an extremist organization or inspired to commit acts of terror within Detroit’s territory or anywhere in the United States. Our agents, analysts, and other professional support staff join with task force officers on the squads and form part of the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The JTTF is an FBI-led, multi-agency effort that uses the skills and talents of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat terrorism. For more information on the FBI’s national efforts to prevent terrorist attacks, see our Counterterrorism webpage.

2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage

Today, more foreign spies—not just traditional adversaries but also allies, hackers, and terrorists—are trying to steal more of our secrets from more places than ever before. What do they want? They want everything from our country’s classified information, military plans, and national security vulnerabilities to our own intelligence activities. But increasingly, they also want our country’s trade secrets—innovations that give our nation a leg up in the global marketplace—and seemingly harmless technologies that could be used to develop or improve weapons of mass destruction.

In Detroit, we have a dedicated foreign counterintelligence squad that—in line with the FBI’s National Strategy for Counterintelligence—works to keep weapons of mass destruction and other controlled technologies from falling into the wrong hands, to protect the secrets of the U.S. government (including the intelligence community) and critical national assets, and to help strengthen the national threat picture by proactively gathering information and intelligence. Our work includes knowing the key targets in our territory, developing strategic partnerships with area institutions, and disrupting the efforts of insiders and key nations.

For more information on the FBI’s national program, see our Counterintelligence webpage.

3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes

The FBI leads the national effort to investigate high-tech crimes, including cyber-based terrorism and espionage, computer and network intrusions, and major cyber fraud and identify theft. To stay in front of current and emerging trends, we gather and share information and intelligence with public and private sector partners worldwide.

In Detroit, we have a squad dedicated to cyber crimes and attacks, and we participate in a variety of multi-agency partnerships, including the Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. Our Macomb County and Bay City Resident Agencies also run Cyber Crimes Task Forces. See our Partnerships webpage for details.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Cyber Investigations webpage.

Criminal Priorities

4. Combat public corruption at all levels

Corruption in government threatens our country’s democracy and national security, impacting everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads and schools. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, too, wasting billions of tax dollars every year.

Our investigations in Detroit focus on violations of federal law by public officials in local, state, and federal government, such as bribery, contract and procurement fraud, antitrust, environmental crimes, election fraud, and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

For more information on the FBI’s national efforts, see our Public Corruption webpage.

5. Protect civil rights

The FBI is the lead agency for investigating violations of federal civil rights laws…and we take that responsibility seriously. Specifically, we aggressively investigate and work to prevent hate crime, color of law abuses, human trafficking, and freedom of access to clinic entrances violations—the four top priorities of our civil rights program. We focus on all of these issues in Detroit.

For more information on our overall efforts, see our Civil Rights webpage.

6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises

Criminal organizations—from mob families to street gangs to drug trafficking outfits—sow violence and crime in our communities and create underground economies that undercut free enterprise.

One of the biggest threats in the southeast Michigan area is the high incidence of violent crime, particularly in the city of Detroit. Shootings are frequently linked to violent neighborhood gangs, which often have a nexus to narcotics that fuel inter-gang violence.

To address this problem, the Detroit Division has a strong partnership with other law enforcement through our Violent Gang Task Force (VGTF) and our Conspiracy 1 Task Force (COTF). The VGTF—made up of agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as Detroit police officers and Michigan state troopers—combines resources to investigate violent gangs. COTF uses local and federal drug statutes to dismantle and disrupt these local gangs and often works alongside VGTF.

Much of the cocaine and marijuana in our territory comes from the southwest border states. To cut off drugs coming in and proceeds going out of the area, we sponsor a Combined Hotel Interdiction Task Force (CHIEF). A Detroit agent and approximately 13 other law enforcement officers make up CHIEF and regularly seize kilos of drugs and millions of dollars in proceeds. These seizures frequently lead to the initiation of new cases and provide substantial intelligence in existing criminal enterprise cases.

See our Partnerships webpage for details, and learn more about our national work to combat organized crime and violent street gangs.

7. Combat major white-collar crime

Fraud—the art of deliberate deception for unlawful gain—is as old as history; the term “white-collar crime” was reportedly coined in 1939 and has since become synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals. Today’s financial criminals and con artists are more savvy and sophisticated than ever, engineering everything from complex stock and health care frauds and intellectual property rip-offs.

We have two squads dedicated to fighting white-collar crime in the Detroit region. The first focuses on mortgage and other types of fraud; the second targets health care fraud.

For more information, see our White-Collar Crime webpage.

8. Combat significant violent crime

Even with our post-9/11 national security responsibilities, we continue to play a key role in combating violent crime in big cities and local communities across the United States. Beyond our work targeting violent gangs and other criminal enterprises, we focus on such issues as crimes against children (including online predators), crime on Indian reservations, the search for wanted fugitives, serial killings, kidnapping, murder for hire, bank robberies, and special crimes like the carriage of weapons on aircraft and crime on the high seas.

In Detroit, we work closely with a host of law enforcement partners to address the full range of violent crimes. We partner with several of our federal, state, and local counterparts in various task forces designed to disrupt and dismantle violent criminal enterprises. See our Partnership webpage for details.

For more details on our overall national efforts, see our Violent Crime and Major Thefts webpage.