Semiannual Report to Congress

April 1, 2006-September 30, 2006
Office of the Inspector General

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

FBI logo ATF’s 5,000 employees perform the dual responsibilities of enforcing federal criminal laws and regulating the firearms and explosives industries. ATF investigates violent crime involving firearms and explosives, acts of arson, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. ATF also provides training and support to its federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners, and works primarily in 23 field divisions across the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Foreign offices are located in Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and France.

Reports Issued

Review of ATF’s Violent Crime Impact Team Initiative

ATF began the Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) initiative in June 2004 with the goal of decreasing homicides and violent crimes committed with firearms in targeted urban areas. VCITs currently operate in 23 cities across the country, and the initiative is slated to expand by 15 additional cities by FY 2008. The VCIT strategy includes targeting specific geographic areas or “hot spots” with a high rate of firearms violence, targeting the “worst-of-the-worst” violent offenders in those areas, building effective working relationships with community leaders, using ATF firearms investigative technology resources, and involving representatives from other Department law enforcement components.

The OIG’s Evaluation and Inspections Division examined ATF’s implementation of the VCIT initiative and concluded that, while the strategy may be an effective tool to reduce violent crime in targeted areas, inconsistent oversight and direction from ATF Headquarters have allowed local VCITs to ignore key elements of the strategy. We also found that ATF’s claim in January 2006 that it had met its stated goal was based on insufficient data.

Our report found that ATF did not consistently implement the VCIT strategy. For example, rather than target specific “hot spots,” two VCITs targeted entire cities and another targeted an entire county — with the population in the VCIT target areas ranging from 25,000 to 3 million. None of the five VCITs that we visited actively participated in any community outreach, six VCITs did not compile a “worst-of-the worst” list, and seven did not keep their lists up to date. In addition, VCITs did not consistently use ATF’s technology resources for their investigations and frequently did not include representatives from other Department law enforcement components.

We also concluded that ATF could not support its claim in its January 2006 report on best practices that the number of homicides committed with firearms was lower in 13 of the 15 VCIT pilot cities’ target areas compared to the same 6-month period the preceding year. For example, ATF used city-wide data rather than data limited to the target area that the VCIT was serving. In addition, rather than look at the total number of violent firearms crimes in a VCIT target area, ATF examined only the number of homicides committed with firearms — a number that was relatively small and not reliable for drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of the VCIT initiative. We also found that ATF’s conclusion that homicides with firearms were trending downward in the VCIT cities was not consistent with accepted standards for trend analysis because the time period ATF examined was too short to draw any conclusions about trends.

The OIG made five recommendations to improve ATF’s implementation of the VCIT initiative, including establishing specific operational guidelines for VCIT implementation and developing an adequate evaluation strategy to assess the success of the VCIT program. ATF, while disagreeing with some of the findings in the OIG report, concurred with all five of our recommendations.

Investigation into Allegations of Mismanagement and Misconduct by the ATF Director

In September 2006, the OIG’s Oversight and Review Division completed its report on allegations of mismanagement and misconduct by the former Director of ATF, who resigned in August 2006. The investigation was initiated in February 2006 after the OIG received an anonymous letter of complaint alleging that the former Director engaged in various acts of mismanagement.

The report details the results of our investigation, which substantiated several allegations in the complaint against the former Director. We reviewed the former Director’s decisions regarding the construction of ATF’s headquarters building and questioned several expenditures that he authorized in connection with that construction project, as well as other construction projects. We also found that the former Director’s use of ATF resources for security was extensive and resulted in an unnecessary drain on resources, particularly when he traveled to field divisions.

In addition, while we found that the former Director did not commit travel abuse, we questioned certain expenditures and use of resources in connection with his overseas travel. For example, we had concerns about the number of travelers who accompanied the former Director on foreign travel and, in particular, the need for an extensive security detail to accompany him on one overseas trip.

We also found that the former Director violated ethics rules by directing ATF staff to assist his nephew in producing a video about ATF for his high school class project.

The former Director’s written response to our report was appended to the final report.

ATF’s Management of Seized Assets and Evidence

ATF seizes for forfeiture and evidentiary purposes items such as alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives, ammunition, vehicles, real property, currency, and computer equipment. Between October 2003 and June 2006, ATF seized 240,802 items with an estimated fair market value of over $57 million. In September 2006, we completed an audit to determine the status of ATF’s transition to the Department’s automated system for managing seized assets and to assess the adequacy of ATF’s accounting for, storing, safeguarding, and disposing of seized assets and evidence in its possession.

When ATF transferred to the Department from the Department of Treasury in January 2003, ATF’s asset tracking system was not immediately migrated into the Department’s asset tracking system because the Department was in the midst of a system upgrade. Our audit found that since ATF’s transfer certain data fields in ATF’s system have not been tracked in the Department’s Consolidated Asset Tracking System (CATS), and that these issues must be resolved in order for system migration to be completed by its target date of June 2007. To accomplish this, ATF must provide appropriate supporting documentation to the Asset Forfeiture Management Staff about seized and forfeited assets and ensure that current and future funds still in the Treasury Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund can be promptly transferred to the Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund.

In addition, we found that ATF lacked a proactive contingency plan that addresses accounting for, storing, and safeguarding seized assets and evidence in the event of a natural disaster or other significant event.

We made five recommendations to assist ATF in meeting the requirements for completing its migration into CATS. ATF agreed with the recommendations and currently is implementing corrective action.

Ongoing Work

National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record

The OIG is reviewing ATF’s National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record to determine whether ATF is effectively maintaining accurate and reliable records of registrations and transfers of National Firearms Act weapons.

Gun Shows

The OIG is reviewing ATF’s enforcement policies and practices relating to illegal firearms trafficking at gun shows.

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