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Schumer: New 2003 Data Shows Bank Robberies Up 70% On Long Island, Yet FBI Has Cut 85 Agents From Regional Office

Schumer: Final 2003 crime statistics from Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments show bank robberies skyrocketed 46% on Long Island from 2002-2003 and are up 70% since 2000

FBI has admitted to Schumer that they have cut more than 85 positions from NY Regional Office since 2000 – Schumer demands cuts be restored with some of the new agents based on Long Island specifically to investigate

Standing outside a Plainview bank that was robbed in September, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today released new year-end 2003 crime statistics for Nassau and Suffolk Counties that show bank robberies have skyrocketed 70 percent on Long Island since the year 2000. Over the same period of time, the FBI cut 85 agents from the New York Regional FBI office that oversees bank robbery investigations on Long Island.

Since the attacks of September 11, FBI agents in New York have had to pull double duty, taking on new roles protecting homeland security in the region while still fighting regular violent crime, white-collar crime, violations of civil rights, and public corruption. Schumer today asked the FBI to spend $11.7 million to restore the cut agent positions and to assign some of the new agents to bank robberies on Long Island, so the region has the federal resources needed both to fight terrorism and traditional crime.

"Willy Sutton said he robbed banks because that's where the money is. Well, that's where the FBI should be, too. I have been fighting hard to get additional resources to fight terrorism, but that doesn't mean we can neglect traditional crime. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an option," Schumer said.

According to final 2003 data from the Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments, Long Island finished the year with 68 bank robberies, which is a 70% increase over the 40 bank robberies on Long Island in the year 2000 and a 45% increase over the 47 bank robberies on Long Island in the year 2002. In Suffolk County, bank robberies doubled from 18 in 2000 to 36 in 2003. Over the last year, bank robberies went up 38% in Suffolk from 26 in 2002 to 36 in 2003. In Nassau County, bank robberies went up 45% from 22 in 2000 to 32 in 2003. Over the last year, bank robberies went up 52% in Nassau, from a (record-low) 21 in 2002 to 32 in 2003.

While the FBI has a "Resident Agency" Long Island field office in Melville, the New York Regional Field Office in Lower Manhattan has primary responsibility for the five boroughs of New York City, Long Island and the counties of Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam and Sullivan. According to FBI data:

• In 1999, there were 1,164 FBI agents in the New York regional field office
• In 2000, there were 1,156 FBI agents in the New York regional field office
• In 2001, there were 1,148 FBI agents in the New York regional field office
• In 2002, there were 1,085 FBI agents in the New York regional field office
• In 2003, there were 1,074 FBI agents in the New York regional field office

New York City has experienced an even greater increase in bank robberies than Nassau and Suffolk did in 2003 with 408 bank robberies reported by New Year's Eve, up 64% from 249 in 2002. In June, as the number of bank robberies began to skyrocket in New York City, Schumer raised the issue of cuts in the New York Regional Field Office with FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. The FBI admitted to Schumer that 85 agent positions had been eliminated in the New York Regional Office since 2000, but promised that "additional agent staff are proposed for permanent assignment (there) before the close of the year."

Schumer today wrote to Director Mueller asking how many of the positions had been restored, and asked that every New York FBI agent position that had been eliminated be brought back. Schumer today also asked Director Mueller to spend $11.7 million – less than one percent of the FBI's annual budget – to restore the agents cut to the New York Regional Field Office. And Schumer asked that some of those restored agents be specifically assigned to the FBI's Violent Crime Task Force and work out of the FBI's Long Island office to fight the rising tide of bank robberies on Long Island.

The average annual cost for an FBI agent – according to the Justice Department's 2004 budget submission – is less than $138,000 including salary, training, supplies, and equipment. Schumer said that it would only take an additional $11.7 million to restore to the New York Regional Field Office the 85-agent cut it has experienced since 2000. That figure is less than one percent of the FBI's annual budget. Schumer also noted that from Fiscal Year 1999 to Fiscal Year 2003, the total funds Congress provided to the FBI have increased 45 percent, from $3.0 billion to $4.3 billion. Because Congress has not completed work on the final Fiscal Year 2004 budget bill, final funding for the FBI for 2004 has not been set.

FBI Director Mueller testified to the Congressional Joint Intelligence Committee – a joint meeting of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees – on October 17, 2002 that since 9/11, the FBI had doubled the number of agents permanently assigned to counter-terrorism. Overall, Director Mueller has sought to re-engineer the FBI structure and operations to closely focus the Bureau on prevention of terrorist attacks, countering foreign intelligence operations against the U.S., and addressing cybercrime-based attacks and other high-technology crimes.

But Schumer said today that while the FBI has – entirely appropriately – moved resources away from bank robberies and into counter-terrorism since 9/11, the huge overall cut in the New York Regional FBI office also has had a significant effect on traditional law enforcement activities like preventing bank robberies.

Schumer noted that the FBI agents in the New York field office – particularly since September 11 – have been able to accomplish much more with relatively less resources than ever, and said the problem is that there are just too few of them. Over the last year, the percentage of bank robberies in the New York areas that have been solved has increased by 37% -- but the overall number of bank robberies continues to rise.

"Since 9/11, we've had to make hard choices, but they shouldn't be false choices. We can be vigilant against terrorists and we can fight violent crime here at home – if only we have the resources we once did to do it. Fighting bank robbers and fighting terrorists should not be an either-or proposition. With enough people in law enforcement – as many people as we once had – we can do both," Schumer said.

For a copy of Schumer's letter to FBI Director Mueller please click here.


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