Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
BELLE CHASSE, La. – The hit CBS television show introduced America to another brand of special agent: NCIS – the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
The popular cast of characters includes New Orleans-born actress Pauley Perrette, who plays forensic expert "Abby" on the show. Her gadgets and equipment do anything and everything to solve a crime.
The original show is based on NCIS headquarters in Washington, D.C., with “NCIS L.A.” on the West Coast. In reality, there are many branches of NCIS in between.
Special Agent Leonard Blue and Special Agent Jeffrey Norton are NCIS New Orleans. Belle Chasse, to be exact. They work on the Joint Naval Reserve Base and handle any crimes where members of the Navy or Marines are either victims or perpetrators.
“Because we only have two special agents assigned here, we pretty much split up anything that comes in,” Norton said, “whether it's murder, rape, robbery. We have a lot of economic crime in the area.”
They also investigate any crimes that happen on the base.
“Last year, back in May, there was an Army Major who shot and killed his wife here on the base,” Blue said.
Supervisory Special Agent Brian Swords splits time among four NCIS offices on the Gulf Coast.
“Some of our computer systems in Mississippi and Louisiana have been targeted by foreign countries such as China,” Swords said.
The team assisted the New Orleans Police when Marine Sgt. Ryan Lekosky was stabbed to death in the French Quarter on Halloween weekend.
On the TV show, Abby is a one-woman crime lab, with high-tech gadgets galore. She's a big fan of the Big Gulp, and quite a character.
Unlike police officers, NCIS agents do much of their own crime scene evidence collection.
“Our ‘Abby’ does not exist within NCIS. We have, we send all of our evidence to a joint combined forensic laboratory in Atlanta,” said Swords.
In reality, "Abby" is numerous forensic experts at this crime lab for all of the military's investigative services. And instead of taking a few hours to get test results back, they say it can take up to a month.
“No Big Gulps. No slaps on the back of the head,” Norton laughed, referencing the TV show. “But we do treat each other like family.”
Their closest thing to the “Big Gulp” are Special Agent Blue's gummy bears.
Even though this NCIS office is practically brand new, it’s still based on the basics. But an interview room still has a few high-tech tools, including cameras that they can easily activate to record the interviews with suspects.
“You can't let every agent have all the ‘whizzy’ things. We couldn't really budget for that,” said Norton.
Even though it might not seem all that glamorous on the surface, the job actually is. Special Agent Norton has worked all over the world.
“I've investigated terrorist activity in Yemen. I was involved with Somali pirate seizures in Kenya. It's across the board. It can be an exciting agency to work for,” he said.
The job and the opportunities it brings for foreign travel is attractive to law enforcement thrill seekers. U.S. Attorney Jim Letten was an NCIS agent early in his career.
“You feel like you're in a movie,” Norton said.
A spokesman out of Washington said the show has done wonders for recruitment and now it's a tough gig to get.
So what do these real-life NCIS agents think of their Hollywood counterparts?
“I couldn't watch it. I don't want to be disappointed either in the show, or my career,” Norton said.
“Of course, anything you see on TV is going to be a little bit more hyped up. A little bit more dramatic than it is in real life,” Blue added.