Newly appointed Special Agent in Charge of the Pittsburgh FBI field office Michael Nordwall spoke on a range of topics in a news conference Wednesday, including the bureau’s priorities in Pittsburgh and the importance of help from the public.
Nordwall comes from Washington, D.C. where he’d been serving as the chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Global Section, a unit that took on cybercrime organizations in Asia and Africa as well as narcotics trafficking by Mexican cartel.
He’s done several stints in Washington on different assignments, and he spent time in the Tampa, Denver and Phoenix field offices. In all, he estimated he’s moved about eight times, and he said he is pleased to be able to put roots in Pittsburgh.
The small-town feel of Pittsburghers’ relationships lends itself to the constant coordination the FBI must do with state and local law enforcement, he said.
“Of all the offices I’ve been in, every one is a little different, the threats are a little different, the priorities are a little different, but one thing that’s key is partnerships,” he said. “I have not been in a field office where there have been stronger partnerships.”
Nordwall pointed to those partnerships earlier this month in discussing indictments related to a drug trafficking ring in Mercer and Lawrence counties.
“We remain dedicated to aggressively investigating those who don’t think twice about committing a crime in the community they live and putting others lives at risk,” he said during the June 17 announcement. “Our communities need to know this is a joint effort and couldn’t be done without the help of state, local and federal partners.”
Those partnerships are key, he said, because not only to local law enforcement agencies know their jurisdictions well, but they know the people there as well, and the public plays an integral role in what the FBI does. He said that 50% of the bureau’s domestic terrorism investigations are generated by public tips.
“We’re really trying to demystify what the FBI does,” he said.
A likely priority for the office, he said, will be helping local authorities in their pushback against the recent surge in violent crime.
“When we look at criminal organizations, we look at disrupting the widest span that we can that will have a lasting impact,” he said, noting that it’s not always an instantaneous fix but rather persistent work to take out the organization that’s fueling the violence.
The same is true of stopping the flow of heroin and fentanyl into the region, Nordwall said, acknowledging a resurgence in overdoses and overdose deaths over the past year.
“What we do … is look at those criminal enterprises, we find those nodes. We know that fentanyl, heroin aren’t produced here in the region, it’s coming from somewhere else,” he said, referencing the country’s Southwestern border as a particular trouble spot.
“We need to make sure we’re taking those cases here, building them up and identifying the source of the supply – kind of that choke point where the cartel meet the more regional distributors and taking the head off (of the supply chain),” he said.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .