On the evening of February 22nd, Special Agent Jeffery Wood of the FBI came to Boston College to speak to students about the Boston Field Division, and more specifically, the gang violence in and around the city. The event was hosted by the Bellarmine Law Society of Boston College.
SA Wood has come to speak at BC since 2005 and he is currently taking a class at the Woods College of Advancing Studies in Cyber Security. Immediately after graduating college, SA Wood began his career as a civil servant. After college he went into the national guard and then fought in Afghanistan for five years before working for the state department. After several years at the state department, Wood became an FBI special agent in 2002.
Two divisions under the Boston FBI Gang Task force are the Safe Streets Gang Program and the North Shore: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The FBI’s goal in combating national gangs is “stopping gangs and putting them in jail.” Four steps to execute this goal are to “identify, infiltrate, disrupt, and dismantle.”
Wood explained that gangs and gang violence has been a rising epidemic all over the country. From 1991 to present day, there has been an increase from 5,000 to 33,000 gangs in the United States. In addition to this, gang violence is responsible for 48% of violent crimes in the U.S and for the increase to about 96% in areas such as Chicago and Los Angeles. These gangs participate in illegal activities like drug trafficking and instill an “atmosphere of fear” in their communities.
In New England specifically, there are 125 street gangs with 6,500 documented members. SA Wood said that, “the only state where gangs don’t exist is the state of denial.” He also addresses that even though it is often difficult for national gangs to come into Boston, the gangs that began in Boston continue to grow. To conquer these violent gangs everyone — the FBI, state police, local police — must become a team. “You have to check your ego at the door,” SA Wood stated.
A specific investigation that SA Wood participated in, beginning in September 2014, was Operation Melting Pot. The conflict began when one member of the King Crips murdered a prominent member of the Bloods. Over the next several years the two groups engaged in a gang war which resulted in multiple murders on both sides.
In order to take down the two gangs, the first phase of Operation Melting Pot was identifying their leaders. After identifying the members and leaders of both gangs, the FBI used cooperative witnesses (CWs) and confidential informants (CIs) to gather evidence for the police and FBI.
During phase three of the investigation, the FBI needed to obtain evidence in order to get a conviction. SA Wood explained that this is done through the controlled purchase of evidence: buying drugs and firearms with CWs equipped with wires or video cameras in cars.
After 18 months of Operation Melting Pot, the FBI and Boston Police Department were able to convict many members of the gang. SA Wood and the rest of the FBI made 62 convicted arrests and confiscated several televisions, cars, drugs, and firearms. SA Wood was proud to say that he was a part of the “largest arrest operation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Wood explained that the goal of his task force was to make the community safer and reduce gun violence in Boston, especially in the city of Lynn. Before the arrests were made, there were 62 gang related shootings in one year in Lynn. The year after Operation Melting Pot was complete and convictions were made, there were only two gang related shooting.
Equally as important as taking down the gangs, the FBI must also take precautionary measures to keep young individuals and previous gang members out of gang affiliations, which will act to keep them out of jail. Continuing this point, SA Wood said that “[he is] more proud of the fact that we took Max and Flash — two gang kids — and gave them a second chance.” He also believes “that is a bigger success story than anyone I locked up.”
During the conclusion of his presentation, a student asked SA Wood if he is ever worried about his own safety. He responded with a simple "no.” After further explanation, he said that he became a member of the FBI to keep people safe. It is his duty to put his life on the line for others in order to have a safer community.