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Allegheny

New FBI Pittsburgh head to focus on opioid epidemic

Megan Guza
| Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, 6:06 p.m.
New Pittsburgh bureau FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones
New Pittsburgh bureau FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Jones

The new head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh field office wants you to know that he is not investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, nor is he looking into any Russian collusion.

“Ninety-nine percent of our cases have nothing to do with Clinton emails or Russia investigations or meddling with elections,” said Bob Jones, recently named Special Agent in Charge of the office.

He means it in jest, but also seriously.

“What you see in Washington, D.C. is not a true reflection” of what the FBI does, he said.

Instead, Jones plans to focus on unrelenting opioid epidemic and the reemergence of cocaine and meth in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the areas covered by the Pittsburgh field office.

He said that while numbers show that opioid deaths are no longer skyrocketing, that doesn’t mean the area “is on the other side of the bell curve.” The fall in fatal overdose rates could be related to better trained first responders who are able to revive victims, he said.

“We’ve been knocking opioids down a little bit, but people are turning to other drugs,” he said.

He said that use of cocaine and meth use is on the rise. What remains most concerning, he said, is the opioid epidemic — “because that’s still killing people.”

Pittsburgh is near the epicenter of the epidemic, he said, and the bureau is still working to figure out why the region is such a hotspot – particularly West Virginia. Jones said he plans to put more agents in the five field offices across the state and dedicate more resources to opioids in general.

Jones’ move to the Pittsburgh field office is a homecoming for him: A Washington County native, he attended Penn State and has “been trying to come back for the last 32 years,” he said.

He most recently served as the assistant director for the Weapons of Mass Destruction unit – a far cry from his first assignment as a special agent on the streets of Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1996, where his duty was to be an FBI jack-of-all-trades, investigating everything from drug and violent crime to terrorism.

Following 9/11, he was assigned to the newly created Osama Bin Laden unit for about 2 ½ years – “about 2 ½ years without sleep,” he said.

Other assignments included Rochester, N.Y, Iraq, Cleveland, Afghanistan, Indianapolis, and several stints back at FBI headquarters sprinkled in between. Jones said he hopes to end his career in Pittsburgh.

He said the cyber unit will continue to expand for years, and all new agents now receive some cyber crime and security training as a matter of course. Drugs, weapons, human trafficking – all can have a cyber component or ties to the Dark Net.

That includes election hacking.

“We have a robust cyber capability across the board,” Jones said. “If there is a threat, we’re probably going to know about it in advance.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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