EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Every child has a hero, and in Jeffrey R. Downey’s case, it was their father.
The youngster from Canton, Ohio, grew up admiring his father, William, an FBI special agent for 30 years. âThis is where I wanted to be someday when I grew up,â said Downey, now an adult.
He made his wish come true 18 years ago and he finds himself today as the special agent in charge of the federal agency’s El Paso field office.
After a month of work, he praises this friendly, low-crime community that nonetheless sits in one of the busiest corridors for drugs, migrants, guns and illegal money on the US border. -mexican. Two drug cartels – Juarez and Sinaloa – and four major gangs operate across the border and are involved in the trafficking of dangerous synthetic drugs, murders, kidnappings and smuggling of migrants.
âWe have been very aggressive in our investigations into drug trafficking and cartels across the border. We do it here at the FBI, but we do it in partnership with our local, state and federal partners, âhe said. âIt will continue as in the past. “
The crime and threat to national security posed by the cartels – who smuggle all drugs, including potentially deadly fentanyl as well as unchecked aliens from around the world – are such that the only way to fight it is to resort to to extreme interagency coordination.
âWe are in permanent contact, I would say on a daily basis, with other partners (from the Ministry of Justice), DHS, ATF, Border Patrol, Customs, HSI. We are working very closely in this community and we will continue this effort to bring people to justice, âsaid Downey.
Drugs and migrants are flocking to the north. The money for illegal drugs and guns are going south. The latter has been a thorn in the side of the Mexican government, whose lawyers last month filed a lawsuit against American arms manufacturers for gun violence in their country.
âIn all the crimes that we investigate, we don’t just look at narcotics, we look at money, we look at guns, it’s a holistic approach. It won’t change the way we investigate illegal drugs, guns on the streets, âDowney said.
Mexican cartels often rely on El Paso gang members and individual âstraw purchasesâ by people in need of cash, security experts told Border Report. Various interagency task forces are tackling this problem on the US side, while the Mexican National Guard has launched random traffic checks in Juarez.
“What I want to tell the community are the men and women of the FBI here [â¦] are people who live in this community and care to protect not only this community, but our country on a daily basis, âsaid Downey. âI am also impressed here by the partnerships between law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local levels. I think cooperation – which you don’t see everywhere – is extremely important to ensure that we continue to keep our crime rates low and that we continue to be a safe community. “
Hate crimes tend to drop after peak in 2019, 2020
But there are a lot of aspects to the job other than fighting organized crime. The FBI is also investigating white-collar crimes ranging from Medicare and mortgage fraud to hate crimes and corruption in government.
Hate crimes increased in the United States to a 12-year high in 2020, fueled by racial prejudice. The FBI earlier this week reported 7,759 such incidents, a 6% increase from 2019.
The FBI defines a hate crime as an offense motivated at least in part by a bias against a victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
Downey said hate crimes were on the decline in El Paso. This is despite a recent “spike” in a West Texas district stretching from San Antonio to here and the high-profile mass shooting of August 3, 2019 that reportedly left 23 people dead at an El Paso Walmart.
The alleged shooter has yet to be tried, and the FBI has referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and El Paso County District Attorney’s Office for comment.
âWe’ve seen a slight increase in 2019 and 2020 (but) here in El Paso from last year to the current year, it’s decreased. We had seven hate crime reports last year and this year we have three, which I think is a compliment to the community, âsaid Downey.
Most crimes are based on gender and race. Downey said there could be more, but people often don’t report them. On the other hand, what someone might interpret as a racial attack could turn out to be a protected freedom of expression.
Pending more community awareness
Either way, the public needs more education on this issue and the FBI is ready to provide it.
âIt is important for us to reach out to talk to the community [â¦] to educate the community about hate crimes and the importance of coming and talking to law enforcement if you think you are a victim of a hate crime, âhe said.
Downey replaces Luis Quesada, the former special agent in charge who has launched weekly public discussions with his experts on community topics such as internet fraud and crimes against children. He says these talks will continue.
âThis will be one of my (priorities), to make sure that we are continually available to the community and educate them on all the crimes that exist. It is important for us to spend time [â¦] to understand the community we serve and (their) different perspectives, âhe said.
Downey has been with the FBI since 2003 with stays in Detroit, Atlanta and Washington, DC. Before that, he worked for the US Secret Service.