Over 30 federal law enforcement agencies are active in South Carolina for a number of reasons. The state has a large population, including a rapidly growing immigrant community. Over 20 million tourists visit the state each year, and its population is projected to approach 4.8 million by 2015. South Carolina has relatively high rates of violent crime with over 27,000 offenses reported in 2011.
The combination of high population density and a number of high-profile and critical facilities generates concern that the state may be vulnerable to a terrorist attack. To fight this, the FBI has two Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) located in the state. The Coast Guard is also involved in the Charleston JTTF.
South Carolina’s well developed systems of transportation also makes it vulnerable to drug smugglers. In particular, the Port of Charleston handles over 1.5 million shipping containers a year and is one of the largest containerized seaports in the country. CBP agents actively monitor these shipments, but the tendency to combine contraband with legitimate commercial cargo makes their jobs difficult, as does the infiltration of the ranks of longshoremen by drug traffickers.
Careers in Federal Law Enforcement
Over 1,200 federal officers had careers in South Carolina in 2008 that gave them the power to carry firearms and the authority to make arrests. This means there is potential to become a federal law enforcement officer in South Carolina.
The agencies that are active in South Carolina have rigorous requirements for those who would join their ranks. Typically, they require a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Applicants for federal law enforcement positions frequently major in a subject related to their field such as criminal justice or police science.
Federal agents are highly trained for their work in the field. For instance, the FBI and the DEA send their recruits to Quantico, Virginia to study at their respective academies there. Training involves academic study, rigorous physical training, and attaining skills such as firearms proficiency and driving in pursuit.
Given the complexity of many criminal cases, federal law enforcement jobs in South Carolina frequently involve working closely with other federal agencies and with local law enforcement officers to disrupt criminal conspiracies. For instance, the 2010 apprehension of Mexican cartel members active in South Carolina involved both DEA agents and US Marshal’s officers. ICE uses Department of Justice and FBI biometric data systems to identify criminal aliens in custody in South Carolina, so they can be deported from the country.
DEA – As an example of interagency cooperation, the DEA has joined with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and a number of state and local law enforcement agencies to fight drug trafficking in South Carolina.
DEA agents in South Carolina investigate international organizations such as those from Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica in addition to residents of the state who engage in this type of criminal activity. An example of the latter is the seizure of meth labs from 2007 to 2009 at a rate that increased three times that of the country as a whole.
Recent significant arrests by the DEA in South Carolina include the following:
- The first arrest of Internet traffickers who used the Silk Road site for drug trafficking took place in South Carolina in 2013. This high profile arrest was the first seizure of the Bitcoin currency used by this site.
- Three people from Gaffney were arrested in 2013 for their role in a large-scale operation involving the sale of synthetic drugs. DEA agents seized $1.4 million from one couple involved in this conspiracy.
FBI – In addition, to investigating such conspiracies as drug smuggling and organized crime operations, the FBI office in Greenville has been highly active in its pursuit of white collar criminals. The city was one of the fastest growing business centers in the country in the 1980s and 1990s and has been a hotbed of this type of criminal activity.
South Carolina has been a prominent location for the theft of automobiles and car parts. The Columbia Division of the FBI led Operation Tigerbait in the 1990s to fight such trafficking in Spartansburg. This resulted in 30 arrests and the recovery of almost $1.5 million of stolen property.
Columbia’s JTTF worked with the ATF and US postal inspectors to convict a York County couple for mailing explosive devices to local citizens and financial institutions in 2008. The Columbia Division of the FBI has an interagency Violent Gang Task Force.
Successful FBI operations in South Carolina in 2013 included the following:
- The recovery of juveniles who had been forced into prostitution and the arrest of two Greenville pimps as part of the nationwide crackdown Operation Cross Country.
- The arrest of eight individuals who were believed to the primary suppliers of cocaine for a number of local street gangs in the state.
Federal Law Enforcement Offices in South Carolina
A number of federal law enforcement agencies have offices in Columbia. This includes the following:
- Field Office
- Area Office for Industry Operations
- Division Office
- Secret Service
- US Marshals
Given South Carolina’s access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Coast Guard has a prominent presence in the state. It is active in the following locations:
- ATON Teams
- Small Boat Stations
- Tybee Island
Additional agency offices throughout the state include the following:
- Charleston Field Office
- Florence Satellite Office
- Greenville Field Office
- Hilton Head
- Myrtle Beach
- Rock Hill
- Charleston International Airport
- Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport
- Myrtle Beach International Airport