From Quantity to Quality:

Changing FBI Emphasis on Interstate Property Crimes--A Supplement

GGD-80-43(A): Published: Aug 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1980.

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This supplement to an earlier GAO report contains the Department of Justice's comments on the GAO analysis. Justice supported the GAO recommendation to change the legislation but has taken issue with the remaining findings, conclusions, and recommendations. They gave no indication that substantial changes would be forthcoming in either prosecutive or investigative policies and practices. GAO believes that existing federal policies and practices ensure that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will continue to handle many nonquality property crime matters without solution and/or prosecution. They will be duplicating the work of state and local law enforcement agencies contrary to the cause of improving relationships with such agencies. GAO believes that its original recommendations are still valid after evaluating the Department's comments.

FBI has recognized that, with its limited resources it could never adequately investigate all crimes within its jurisdiction. They implemented procedures in case workload to eliminate marginal investigations or matters not warranting federal attention. To concentrate on quality cases, they must rely on state and local police and prosecutors. The program has not been effectively integrated into day-to-day operations of FBI field offices and U.S. attorneys' offices. Conflicting requirements and a lack of reliance on state and local assistance work to perpetuate the heavy load of low priority unproductive cases. Justice officials disagree about the types of cases FBI should be involved in from the outset and those that should be left to local authorities. In a GAO study of FBI field office operations, only 14 percent of the cases investigated resulted in FBI recovering stolen property and 93 percent were not prosecuted. FBI will not fully achieve a quality property crime caseload until U.S. attorneys' prosecutive policies and FBI investigative priorities are coordinated. Improved coordination between FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies is needed to determine the approprate role of each in the initial investigation of property crimes. By concentrating resources on major interstate property thefts, the government is much more likely to prosecute major property criminals and thieves and recover substantial amounts of stolen property.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should strike the reference to $5,000 from the statute governing the interstate transportation of stolen property so that federal jurisdiction can be directed to those offenses where an expenditure of federal resources would have the most impact on the nation's property crime problem.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct U.S. attorneys to change their prospective policies for property crimes to agree with FBI quality criteria. The Attorney General should require FBI to minimize its involvement in property crimes not warranting a federal presence by: (1) developing guidelines that stress greater reliance on state and local law enforcement agencies; (2) maximize its efforts against major interstate property crimes by more aggressively identifying and investigating top property criminals; and (3) revise its quality criteria to exclude cases where federal jurisdiction is uncertain.

    Agency Affected:


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