NEW ORLEANS - FBI director James Comey is spending his first months in office learning what law enforcement agencies around the country want him to focus on.
After meeting with local and state authorities in New Orleans Thursday, Comey said key concerns in the metro area are drug-related violent crimes, often involving gangs. He said the FBI can help.
'We have a lot of technology that we can bring to bear that can help make some of these violent gang investigations successful,' Comey said.
Comey said heroin in particular is nearing epidemic proportions around the country, and the metro area is no exception.
'The manufacturers have shipped into this country a whole lot of highly-pure, low-priced heroin to try and gain market share against methamphetamine and against cocaine,' said Comey.
Comey noted that drug enforcement is the not the FBI's primary responsibility, but the agency does assist the DEA as well as local and state authorities. The FBI's focus is on finding traffickers and violent gangs that are selling the drug.
'Our mission there is not to take out one or two offenders but to try to take the whole group out to rescue the neighborhood so the good folks can try and grow something in that space,' said Comey.
Comey said the FBI's top priorities remain counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. He said fighting terrorism in a city like New Orleans presents special challenges.
'Lots of folks in and out lots of international connections, that's obviously something we have to focus on to meet our counter-terrorism responsibilities,' he said.
Comey said there has been great progress against violent crime in New Orleans in recent years. But he said there is more work to be done, and the FBI will continue to make resources available to help.
The FBI, in conjunction with state and local law enforcement, has had some recent success indicting gang members through the New Orleans Gang Task Force. Officials credit those efforts with helping to curb crime in some neighborhoods.
Sex trafficking is another issue in New Orleans, with its position as a port city and hub for big events means human trafficking. The FBI says it's particularly focused on rescuing juvenile victims.