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October 23, 2017

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Head of FBI in Las Vegas: ‘I want to take down the barriers’

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Mikayla Whitmore

FBI Las Vegas Division Director Aaron Rouse speaks to the media at the local FBI Headquarters, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016.

Careers at the FBI

Rouse says the FBI is looking for job candidates from all backgrounds and with diverse talents. The local branch employs about 300 people. Those interested can visit fbijobs.gov.

With an American flag pin on his lapel and an assertive smile on his face, the new special agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas Division introduced himself. Appointed by FBI Director James Comey, Aaron Rouse compared his first days on the job back in September to drinking from a firehose, adding that it was a “good hectic.”

Rouse started his career in law enforcement 25 years ago as a New York state trooper, and he’s been with the FBI for two decades, working violent crime and then forming part of a fugitive task force in the agency’s Washington Field Office. He has held leadership positions in Florida and Texas, and before moving to Las Vegas was section chief in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI headquarters.

Las Vegas presents unique challenges for law enforcement because it’s a magnet for transient threats that can be hard to predict, Rouse said. There are “criminal elements that would like to take advantage of that,” but “very little comes through that we’re not working on with our partners to address. ... It’s important to get things right every day.”

He spoke about several issues keeping the bureau busy in the city, and about the future of the FBI.

OPIOIDS

Rouse said the black market for opioids is big on the FBI’s radar, locally and nationally. Heroin and fentanyl, along with other prescription drugs, have incrementally become a threat to public safety.

“Fortunately for our citizens,” Rouse said, local law enforcement partnerships are countering these trends. The agency and the government agree on attacking the issue from multiple fronts, not just through arrests and prosecution but also through civil suits. He said details would soon be released about the strides made by a task force of local and federal officers in combatting drug trafficking.

HOMICIDES

The FBI also has been attuned to the recent spike in homicides in Las Vegas. As of Nov. 15, Metro Police had been called out to 150 cases this year, compared with 136 in all of 2015 and 109 during the same time period that year — about a 38 percent increase.

Asked about the public’s perception of mayhem, despite slayings being sharply down compared with a couple of decades ago, Rouse said opinions were influenced by the 24-hour news cycle: “It’s easy to focus on the negative,” he said. He again touted the partnership between local, state and federal authorities and the crucial nature of information sharing to solving and preventing violent crime.

“Nobody is in this alone,” he said.

FBI IN NEVADA

The federal agency, which also has satellite offices in Reno, Elko and South Lake Tahoe, participates in several local law enforcement task forces, including targeting drugs, crime and counterterrorism. It also was an essential component of the Nevada Election Day Integrity Task Force, undertaking investigations into election fraud complaints or voting abuses.

Rouse said a career with the FBI was an opportunity for a life of service to the nation, but prospective agents shouldn’t expect the job to be as it’s portrayed in movies, TV shows or books. The FBI isn’t a rogue organization; it operates by the rule of law.

“It’s a cadre of hard-working men and women who believe in protecting this country from people who can hurt it,” Rouse said.

The agency guards its methodologies, but for those who want to understand how it works in more depth, Rouse recommends locals apply to the FBI’s citizen’s academy. Those accepted — requirements are being a U.S. citizen and passing a screening — spend eight weeks learning more about its operations.

Rouse said he wanted to build a mutually beneficial “bond of trust” between the agency and the community.

“I want to take down the barriers that keep people from cooperating with the FBI,” he said.

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