Coordination of Investigations by Department of Justice Violent Crime Task Forces

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-004
May 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Purpose, Scope, and Methodology of the OIG Review


In the Conference Report on the Department’s FY 2006 appropriations bill, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees directed that the OIG assess the coordination of investigations conducted by four types of violent crime task forces: ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams, DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces.23 This report responds to Congress’s request and assesses whether the task force operations are well coordinated. In this report, “well coordinated” means that task forces avoided duplicate investigations, cooperated in joint investigations, and deconflicted events to protect officer safety.


We reviewed the Department’s and the components’ policies on task force coordination, compliance with these policies, and local task force and field office efforts to coordinate investigations through FY 2006. We also analyzed nation-wide arrests reported in FYs 2003 through 2005 by the ATF Violent Crime Impact Teams, the DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams, the FBI Safe Streets Task Forces, and the USMS Regional Fugitive Task Forces and assessed local task force operations in eight cities through the time of our site visits to each city. This report also includes some of the information the components provided in response to our request for comments on the draft report.


To assess the components’ coordination efforts, we conducted interviews, site visits, and data analyses.

Interviews. We conducted 234 in-person and telephone interviews with officials from the Office of the Deputy Attorney General; the Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer; senior ATF, DEA, FBI, and USMS managers in headquarters units and in field offices; non-supervisory Special Agents and Deputy Marshals in field offices; and U.S. Attorney’s Office officials. Additionally, we interviewed non-Department personnel from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the HIDTAs, and local and state law enforcement officials who participated on the task forces.

Site Visits. We conducted site visits to eight cities with two or more task forces from February 2006 through May 2006 (Table 3). The primary criterion for site selection was the variety of task forces operating in the city. We identified the names and locations of task forces operating within cities across the country. Our final selection took into account geographic diversity (i.e., East coast, Midwest, South, and West coast), the population of the cities, and the components’ recommendations. We selected four cities that have all four task forces (Atlanta, Georgia; Camden, New Jersey; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, California), three cities that have three task forces (Chicago, Illinois; Gary, Indiana; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and one city that has two task forces and one planned task force (Birmingham, Alabama).

Table 3: Task Forces in the Eight Cities Visited During FY 2006

CITIES ATF Violent Crime Impact Team DEA Mobile Enforcement Team FBI Safe Streets Task Force USMS Regional Fugitive Task Force

Atlanta, GA

Birmingham, AL



Camden, NJ

Chicago, IL


Gary, IN


Las Vegas, NV

Los Angeles, CA

Philadelphia, PA


In each city, we interviewed personnel from ATF, the DEA, the FBI, the USMS, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, HIDTA, and state and local law enforcement agencies from the city and surrounding jurisdictions to evaluate the coordination among the components’ field and task force operations. Some cities did not have all four types of task forces within the scope of our review. In those cities, we assessed the components’ coordination of violent crime operations with the task forces within the scope of this review.

Based on our site visits and other field work, we developed 28 criteria that indicated the presence or absence of coordination. Using these criteria, we analyzed the data we collected in each city we visited to assess the coordination of task force investigations by each component in each city and to rank the components’ combined coordination efforts in the eight cities.

Data Analysis. To identify instances of cooperation or duplication of effort among the task forces, we also examined data from FYs 2003 through 2005 to find instances in which more than one component task force investigated the same individual. Because task forces often do not know the identity of the individual they are seeking early in an investigation (which precludes fully identifying overlapping ongoing investigations), and because of the components’ sensitivity regarding data related to their ongoing investigations, we focused our analysis on investigations that had culminated in the arrest of an individual. We used statistical analysis software to compare lists of arrestees provided by each component to identify instances in which more than one task force reported making the same arrest. We identified arrests reported by more than one task force based on one of three methods: matching Social Security Numbers recorded by both components, matching FBI Numbers recorded by both components, or matching names and dates of birth recorded by both components.24 We provided the results to the components and asked them to review their case files and provide explanations for arrests reported by more than one task force. We analyzed the components’ responses and identified duplicate investigations, in which at least one task force did not report any efforts to cooperate, and joint investigations, in which both task forces reported working together. A detailed methodology is included in Appendix II.

Background Research. Our background research included reviews of reports, Department policies, congressional testimony and appropriations legislation, press releases, speech transcripts, and newspaper articles.

  1. See House Report No. 109-272, at 67 (2005).

  2. The FBI Number is a unique identification number assigned to each individual who has a record in the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, a nation-wide database of fingerprint and criminal history records of individuals who have been arrested. Because it is tied to fingerprint records, an individual’s FBI Number is less susceptible to identity fraud than a date of birth or a Social Security Number.

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