Crime Fighters

September 18, 2017
RYAN ETTER

TFK visits an FBI facility to watch its agents in action.

Seven FBI agents search a house. A criminal suspect is hiding in a bedroom. The agents send in a small, remote-controlled robot. It scans the path ahead. The robot makes sure it is safe for the agents to follow.

The agents reach the bedroom. They toss in a small grenade. It explodes with a loud bang and a blinding flash of light.

The suspect is stunned. Three agents rush in. They capture him.

But the “criminal” is another FBI agent. The house is a life-size model. The exercise is a training session. It is held at a base in Fort Dix, New Jersey. The session is weekly practice for members of Newark’s FBI Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. FBI agents must practice often to keep their skills sharp.

An FBI agent controls a robot during a SWAT team practice session.

JASMINE CANNON FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Duty and Country

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was established in 1908. It investigates violations of federal law. Today, its main focuses are terrorism and cybercrime.

In May, the agency had a major leadership change. President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Christopher Wray, Trump’s choice to replace Comey, took over in August. Throughout the changes, the FBI’s job has stayed the same.

“Our mission is to keep America safe—and to follow the Constitution. We do them together,” Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher told TFK. He leads the FBI’s Newark Division, in New Jersey.

Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher answers questions in his office, in Newark, New Jersey.

JASMINE CANNON FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Solving cases requires careful gathering and study of evidence. Evidence might include bullet remains, footprints, and tire tracks. “We use different types of technology,” Special Agent Mary Gardocki says.

One tool that agents use is a special flashlight. It changes the wavelength of light. With it, Gardocki says, agents can see “things you wouldn’t be able to see with the naked eye.” Hard-to-see items include hair and fibers.

About 35,000 people work for the FBI. They include special agents, or investigators; scientists; and computer experts. And the agency’s personnel is not limited to humans. Its K-9 unit uses dogs. They sniff out explosives, drugs, and electronic devices.

The FBI’s K-9 unit features highly trained dogs. Here, three agents stand with their dog partners.

JASMINE CANNON FOR TIME FOR KIDS

Future Agents

Looking ahead, the FBI is encouraging young people to think about joining its mission someday. Top college students can become interns. They work with FBI employees. Through the Teen Academy program, high school students can visit their local FBI field office to learn about the agency.

Before joining the FBI, Gardocki was a cancer researcher. “There are similarities in both careers,” she says. “They’re both about identifying a problem and trying to solve a mystery. And in both, you’re trying to help people.”

Assessment: Click here for a printable quiz. Teacher subscribers can find the answer key in this week's Teacher's Guide.