Inside Vegas’ FBI: How does it compare to TV shows about the agency?

Local News

On CBS there’s a new show called FBI which takes a look at how agents solve cases.

But, how much of what you see on TV crime dramas is actually accurate?

8 News Now Reporter Orko Manna got an inside look at the FBI’s field office in Las Vegas and he learned a little more about what they do day-to-day.

“We start off by vacuuming the seats of this car,” said an FBI agent.  “Next, we swab the steering wheel for any skin cells.  Then it’s time to collect fingerprints. We’d walk around the vehicle and see what kind of prints we can find.”

Everything was done with the FBI’s evidence response team, also known as ERT.  They search items at a crime scene, trying to find clues.

“That’s beautiful, you can see all the ridge detail on there.”

Most of the work the FBI does takes a long time, so it’s not always as fast as TV shows, like the new CBS drama “FBI.”

“The vast majority of our job is not going to be able to be solved in 60 minutes or less, 48 minutes with commercials,” said Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge for the FBI Las Vegas.

Rouse has been with the bureau for more than 20 years and says between gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses it’s rare to have a case solved in a matter of days.

“They take months, in some cases years to solve,” Rouse said.

Timing isn’t the only difference between fact and fiction.

“We don’t generally do it in the thousand dollar suits, or wearing dresses with high heels and so forth.  We wear very specialized clothing that’s not made for TV,” Rouse said.

With that said, Rouse said there are still some aspects of shows, like “FBI” that are realistic.  For example Intense group brainstorming sessions.

“We call it the bullpen,” Rouse said.

The same goes for the FBI’s use of advanced technology, but Rouse admits some high-tech devices used on TV stretch the truth.

“They want people to watch it, so it’s got to be exciting,” said Rouse.  “I applaud the fact when they try and get it right.”

In the real world, getting it right can be meticulous when it comes to collecting evidence with the ERT.

Being an FBI agent isn’t about the glitz and glamour; it’s about patience and skill and the constant drive to improve.

“We’re never going to be satisfied,” said Rouse. “We’re doing well now; we want to do better tomorrow.”

So that was a closer look at how the real FBI collects evidence during an investigation. It’s definitely a long process; more than what you’ll see on TV all to keep communities safe. 

TV shows often depict bomb threats and major attacks, while Rouse says counter-terrorism is the FBI’s number one priority, they investigate a wide range of cases, including the victimization of the elderly and cybercrimes.

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