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Arrests alone won’t stop emerging criminal threats, FBI Las Vegas boss says

The emerging threats law enforcement officers face in Las Vegas and around the country can’t be stopped by just guns or arrests, said the FBI’s top agent in Las Vegas.

Ever-present threats such as child sex trafficking, terrorism and cyber crime require building a stronger cooperative approach between law enforcement and the public, said Spencer Evans, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas division.

“The threats that we face in the United States today and certainly those that we face in Las Vegas and in Nevada are not threats that we can arrest our way out of,” Evans said Tuesday.

Evans stressed that it will take a more collaborative effort to effectively stop crime in the 21st century.

“There’s not enough guns or FBI agents in the country to be able to effectively handle all of those issues if we’re doing it alone,” Evans said. “What we really have to do is cooperate with our partners, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the rest of the partners in the valley, and increasingly the media and the public so that we can work together to solve these sorts of crimes.”

Evans was speaking at the Metropolitan Police Department’s shooting range at 7600 E. Carey Ave., known formally as the John Moran Firearms Training Facility, where law enforcement officers, including FBI agents, come from all over the Las Vegas Valley to train.

It was all part of Range Day, an event in which FBI special agents give an overview of the firearms used by the bureau now and in the past. Journalists also are invited to shoot the weapons.

At the range on Tuesday, the weapons included a Glock 19 handgun, a Hechler &Koch MP5 submachine gun, a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and a decades-old FBI Tommy gun, among others.

To collectors, the Tommy gun would be worth about $75,000, agents said. For such a powerful weapon, it has remarkably little recoil. And it just harks back to a bygone era of gangsters and cops going to war during the Prohibition era.

“There’s one that we used many, many years ago, most notably that .45 caliber Tommy gun, which is the stuff of legend in mobster movies from the ’30s and ’40s and were carried operationally by agents until the 1980s,” Evans said.

“So what you’ve seen out there is virtually a time capsule of weapons from 70 years ago all the way up to the latest weapons systems that FBI agents carry today.”

Now, Evans said, all agents are typically armed with a Glock 9 mm.

“We have specialty weapons for our SWAT teams and our hostage rescue team, but then the long guns that we carry are going to be an M4 variant shooting a .223 or 5.56 caliber weapon,” Evans said, referring to the M4 Carbine assault rifle.

Guns obviously play an important role in tackling crime, Evans said. Especially when criminals also have increasingly more powerful weapons. And special agents are trained to view deadly force as a last resort — with de-escalation the preferred method of neutralizing a threat, if possible.

But sometimes de-escalation isn’t possible.

“Unfortunately, even if you do everything, it can still be the case that someone takes your life,” he said. “Because firearms are just a natural part of the job and bad guys have them too. And as we saw again in the last couple weeks, they’re not afraid to use them.”

Evans was referring to the Oct. 13 death of Metro officer Truong Thai, who was killed in the line of duty when police said a round from an AK-47 pierced his ballistic vest.

On Friday, he said, the FBI will have a presence at Thai’s funeral to show solidarity with Metro.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.

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