The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a federal agency that leads the fight against illegal firearms, arson, explosives and the illicit trafficking of tobacco and alcohol products. In 2002, with the signing of the Homeland Security Act, the ATF expanded its purview to include the Safe Explosives Act – legislation designed to help combat terrorism.
West Virginia’s ATF agents report to work in the Charleston I and Charleston II Field Offices, as well as in satellite offices located in Wheeling and Clarksburg.
Requirements to Become an ATF Agent
Education and Experience – As a West Virginia ATF Agent, you will be dealing with high profile criminals in the field. Agents execute a successful operation by collecting evidence, raiding the suspect’s residence, and placing them under arrest before they suspect they are even being investigated. Collecting crucial evidence and catching criminals is a job that requires ample preparation by meeting experience and/or education requirements to qualify at the basic GL-5 level:
- Bachelor’s degree in any area of study
- Three years of experience (one of which must be equivalent to GL-4 level responsibilities and related to law enforcement, protective work or criminal investigations)
- A combination of both education and experience
Training and Course Completion – During the rigorous 12-week Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP), agents receive basic and fundamental training in concepts, methodologies and techniques of conducting criminal investigations. Newly hired agents are mentored by Continuing Case Investigation Coordinators through lectures, practical exercises, tests and laboratories. Agents who have previously completed a CITP course within another federal agency may be exempt and receive a waiver to opt-out of this additional training.
Following the completion of CITP, agents participate in Special Agent Basic Training (SABT). SABT is a 15 week course focused on ethics, leadership, and human dignity. The programs academic focus is on areas of law, drug recognition, automated information systems and report writing. Agents also participate in strong physical fitness activities and defense tactics, all designed to prepare future agents for fieldwork.
West Virginia ATF: Federal Crime and the Criminal Justice System
Through the Project Safe Neighborhoods framework, the Federal government’s domestic criminal-justice initiative committed to reducing gun crime, ATF agents all over the United States have worked tirelessly to bring in over 10,000 felons each year for federal prosecution. West Virginia ATF agents, with the assistance of local authorities, proved the efficiency of this framework in 2011 by helping to secure a guilty plea from a Huntington man in possession of a sawed off rifle. Locating illegal weapons is only one part of an ATF agent’s job description – ATF Agents throughout West Virginia conduct investigations of federal crimes in relation to explosives, arson and alcohol and tobacco as well.
Dealing with Explosives – Crimes that involve arson and explosives destroy property, place an economic burden on area residents and disrupts lives. The increasing number of violent acts that involve explosives has provided a greater need for ATF agents in West Virginia with experience in these fields. In December 2013, local authorities enlisted the help of ATF agents in Charleston, when a bomb threat was phoned in to the Southridge Walmart. Upon a thorough search of the store with the aid of bomb sniffing dogs, the store was allowed to re-open shortly before 11 am.
West Virginia ATF agents use multiple combined resources to investigate incidents of explosives and arson, including national and international response teams and task forces. West Virginia ATF Agents also play an integral role in helping to regulate and educate the explosives industry.
Reduction of Gang Violence and Neighborhood Safety – ATF Agents in connection with local authorities have provided residents with a sense of security by helping to reduce neighborhood gang violence. In recent years, multiple members of the Crips have been arrested and sentenced in West Virginia.
By providing local authorities with experience and education in gang-related crimes, ATF agents in West Virginia have helped to reduce gang violence within the community.