New St. Louis FBI head says top priority is preventing violence
Jay Greenberg was named the special agent in charge of the St. Louis office of the FBI on May 9.
He’s spent the past 10 weeks getting to know his agents and meeting with partners in both the law enforcement and private sectors.
He told St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann that those partnerships are “incredibly strong,” and that people who live and work in the 40 counties served by the field office should “feel very secure in how everybody works together to really drive their safety and make this a good community.”
The following conversation has been edited.
Rachel Lippmann: What are your priorities for the St. Louis office, and how did you develop them?
Jay Greenberg: The FBI’s top priority anywhere is preventing any kind of terrorist attack. Stemming very quickly off of that is preventing any other violent attack. We are also very focused on making sure that all of the intellectual property that is developed at the different companies and universities is kept safe from foreign adversaries who are trying to beg, borrow and steal that to get ahead.
It’s also making sure that all of the vulnerabilities from a cyber perspective are covered. Cyber risk is business risk, and cybersecurity is national security.
And then of course in St. Louis, we couldn’t have any conversation without talking about fighting public corruption, and making sure that the people who live here are comfortable in the government that they have representing them, to whom we all pay a great deal of our money in exchange for honest services.
And finally, violent crime. St. Louis unfortunately year over year over year has continued to struggle with violent crime rates. That is an area where we have and will continue to dedicate substantial resources.
Lippmann: How do you convince residents that law enforcement partnerships like Operation LeGend, which you help lead, work, when their neighborhoods continue to struggle with violent crime?
Greenberg: While we don’t always hold ourselves to driving down specific measurable violent crime rates, we are always looking to judge the impact of the resources we invested from the perspective of the community who lives here.
Lippmann: What are you hearing from the community about how they perceived the impact of Operation LeGend?
Greenberg: I can tell you that from my personal experience, when we go into these neighborhoods that have elevated violent crime rates, a story that is frequently not told is that the candy shop owner, or the grandmother, or the grandfather, will come out and thank us for being there.
Lippmann: You’ve talked about the importance of cooperation. One of the things that makes cooperation more difficult is Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act. What impact is that law having on your partnerships with local law enforcement, and what adjustments are you having to make?
Greenberg: I’m sure you’re aware that the Department of Justice and [the Bureau of] Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have brought a lawsuit, so there is active, ongoing litigation on this topic.
It is a huge concern for our local law enforcement partners. What they’re telling me is, this law has driven confusion for them. They don’t know if it’s OK for them to cooperate with us on crimes involving guns.
Lippmann: What resources can the FBI offer to help with violent crime in this era of confusion?
Greenberg: Our primary tools will be working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our state and local law enforcement partners to collect evidence that will allow us to bring the most impactful federal charges. That allows us to then get a federal sentence.
There is no parole in the federal system, so those defendants have to serve at least 85% of their sentence. And rather than being right down the street from where their families are here locally, the Bureau of Prisons frequently ships them off to the four corners of the nation, wherever there are openings. So they are removed from their families and this community that they’ve terrorized.
Lippmann: How would you define success in the time you have in St. Louis?
Greenberg: There’s a couple of different ways that I would like to be judged. The first is, did we use the limited resources we had in the right way to build partnerships, to protect intellectual property, to keep violent acts from happening here. And then I would ask – does the average man or woman on the street feel safer? Do they feel the ability to live their life the way they want? And do our communities feel like law enforcement is accurately representing their needs?
Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann