Indian Country Crime

FBI Agent in New Mexico (Landscape View)

Protecting tribal communities is a little known—but highly important—responsibility of the FBI. We’ve been helping to ensure safety and security in Indian Country since our founding in 1908.

The FBI is responsible for investigating the most serious crimes in Indian Country— such as murder, child sexual and physical abuse, violent assaults, drug trafficking, gaming violations, and public corruption matters. Nationwide, the FBI has investigative responsibilities for some 200 federally recognized Indian reservations. More than 100 agents in 19 of the Bureau’s 56 field offices work Indian Country matters full time. The FBI’s Indian Country Crimes Unit at FBI Headquarters promotes liaison and intelligence sharing through its Safe Trails Task Forces and working groups and provides critical training to Indian Country law enforcement in partnership with the Department of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Overview 

There are 566 federally recognized American Indian Tribes in the United States, and the FBI has federal law enforcement responsibility on nearly 200 Indian reservations. This federal jurisdiction is shared concurrently with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS).

Located within the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, the Indian Country Crimes Unit (ICCU) is responsible for developing and implementing strategies, programs, and policies to address identified crime problems in Indian Country (IC) for which the FBI has responsibility.

The ICCU’s daily operations consist of providing:

  • Program management;
  • Support for operational and forensic expenses;
  • Training of IC law enforcement officers;
  • Initiatives related to domestic violence and sex offenses;
  • Reporting under the Tribal Law and Order Act;and
  • Support for the Safe Trails Task Forces.

ICCU partners with internal and external entities/federal agencies, including, but not limited to, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, the FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Statistics 

Approximately 75 percent of the crimes the FBI investigates in Indian Country fall under the following priority violations:

  • Death investigations;
  • Physical abuse of a child;
  • Sexual abuse of a child;
  • Violent felony assaults; and
  • Rape.

Four field divisions (Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City) account for 75 percent of all Indian Country cases opened each year.

The FBI’s Office for Victim Assistance has victim specialists dedicated to Indian Country, representing approximately one-third of the entire FBI victim specialist workforce. These victim specialists are heavily involved in FBI IC cases, assisting victims throughout the entire case process.

Training 

ICCU works with the Department of Justice to provide training for federal, state, county, and tribal law enforcement officers.

The FBI typically supports the following courses for Indian Country law enforcement personnel:

  • Interviewing and interrogation;
  • Death investigations;
  • Forensic interviewing of children;
  • Evidence collection; and
  • Child abuse investigations.

Safe Trails Task Forces 

On March 3, 1994, the FBI initiated “Operation Safe Trails” with the Navajo Department of Law Enforcement in Flagstaff, Arizona. The purpose of the operation, which would later evolve into the Safe Trails Task Force (STTF) Program, was to unite the FBI with other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in a collaborative effort to combat the growth of crime in Indian Country. STTFs allow participating agencies to combine limited resources and increase investigative coordination in Indian Country to target violent crime, drugs, gangs, and gaming violations.

Safe Trails Task Force Locations:

  • Northern Arizona Safe Trails Task Force (Flagstaff, AZ)
  • Truxton Canyon Safe Trails Task Force (Lake Havasu, AZ)
  • Sacramento Indian Gaming Safe Trails Task Force (Sacramento, CA)
  • Florida Safe Trails Task Force (Miami, FL)
  • Straits Area Safe Trails Task Force (Marquette, MI)
  • Upper Peninsula Safe Trails Task Force (Marquette, MI)
  • Headwaters Safe Trails Task Force (Bemidji, MN)
  • Western Nevada Safe Trails Task Force (Reno, NV)
  • New Mexico Safe Trails Task Force (Gallup, NM)
  • Warm Springs Safe Trails Task Force (Warm Springs, OR)
  • Northern Plains Safe Trails Task Force (Pierre, SD)
  • Northwestern Washington Safe Trails Task Force (Bellingham, WA)
  • Salish Safe Trails Task Force (Spokane, WA)
  • Menominee Safe Trails Task Force (Green Bay, WI)

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