The Baltimore Division: A Brief History
A Brief History
Since its earliest days as an organization, the FBI has stationed agents in Baltimore. In 1911, a special office was set up in the city to oversee all Bureau interstate prostitution investigations. Although this oversight function was returned to FBI Headquarters in 1914, by this time the Bureau had a regular field division in Baltimore led by Special Agent in Charge John Gregurevich. This office tackled the wide range of Bureau responsibilities—from interstate crime to national security matters.
|Alfred James Brady|
The division continued to operate through the early 1920s and the reorganization initiated in 1924 by newly appointed Director J. Edgar Hoover. At that time, the Baltimore Division was small, handling about 52 cases with a staff of several agents and clerical personnel. By the mid-1930s, agents were pursuing gangster fugitives like James Brady (who lived in the city for a time), as well as many other criminals.
With the onset of World War II, the division made national security concerns its top priority. In 1939, a few months before the war actually began in Europe, FBI Headquarters made sure that Baltimore and several other key field divisions had assigned a special agent to concentrate on national security matters. Within a year, many agents were working these issues in Baltimore. By October 1941, 30 agents were handling a total of more than 2,500 investigations in the division.
National security concerns continued into the early years of the Cold War. The Baltimore Division was responsible for espionage investigations at such key facilities as the Aberdeen Proving Ground and the new headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade. So many criminal, security, and background investigations were being launched by the division that the Army set up a room at the Proving Grounds for Baltimore agents working with military law enforcement and counterintelligence personnel. Agents pursued leads in many intelligence-related cases—from the investigation of Alger Hiss, who had grown up in Baltimore, to that of William Weisband, a Soviet agent who penetrated the Army Signals Service, a predecessor of the NSA.
|John Brady Murphy|
Criminal matters were also important during this time. Sometimes, such investigations ended tragically. In September 1953, Special Agent John Brady Murphy of the Baltimore office was shot to death while pursuing John Elgin Johnson, a murder suspect and parole violator. Murphy had tracked Johnson to a Baltimore theatre, where he was surprised by the fugitive and fatally wounded. Other Baltimore agents quickly tracked down Johnson, who perished in a shoot-out while resisting capture.
|Wilcoxson during the Brooklyn bank robbery|
In 1962, Baltimore agents arrested Ten Most Wanted fugitive Bobby Wilcoxson, who, along with his partner Albert Nussbaum, had robbed eight banks, accumulated a massive arsenal of weapons, murdered a bank guard, and set off several bombs in the nation’s capital. Draft deserters, civil rights violators, and kidnappers were also targets of the Baltimore Division in the 1960s and into the 1970s.
In the 1980s, the division investigated major federal crimes such as art theft, health care fraud, and drug trafficking. In the mid-1980s, Baltimore agents helped investigate the Walker espionage ring and Ronald Pelton, an NSA analyst who spied for the Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, the division launched an investigation of a child predator who pursued his victims via a personal computer. Called “Innocent image,” the case sparked the creation of multi-agency Innocent image Task Forces nationwide to track child predators operating over the Internet.
Following the attacks of 9/11, FBI Baltimore joined the rest of the Bureau in making the prevention of terrorist attacks its top priority, working through its Joint Terrorism Task Force and a new Field Intelligence Group established in 2003. In the fall of 2002, the division played a major role in chasing down a pair of snipers who terrorized the Washington, D.C. region, working with numerous local and state law enforcement partners and other FBI offices. On October 24, 2002, Maryland State Police, Montgomery County SWAT officers, and agents from the Baltimore Division surrounded the snipers’ car and arrested John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who were ultimately convicted of a series of murders.
Heading into its second century of service, the Baltimore Division remains committed to protecting the region and the nation from a range of national security and criminal threats.