Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): History & Crime Statistics

Instructor: Janell Blanco
In this lesson, we will explore the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). We will also examine crime statistics and famous cases the FBI has investigated. Take a short quiz at the end of the lesson to test your understanding.


It is a warm day in New Orleans, Louisiana. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can be seen, smelled, heard, and stepped on as you walk the streets. The store fronts are boarded up and what little is left of the homes is scattered on the sidewalks. You step around a board with nails sticking out of it, you step over a picture of a family on the street, and eventually you make your way to the staging area where you are going to clock-out for the day. Your mission, with the help of the other members of your Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) crew, was to help the law enforcement agencies keep the peace in New Orleans.

Let's rewind just a little over 50 years. On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Your job that day was to gather evidence and to take witness accounts of the assassination. Along with gathering evidence and taking witness statements, your duties included keeping the peace on the streets.

John F. Kennedy

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been responsible for investigating several crimes that early on included bank robberies and assassinations. The job duties of the FBI have evolved over the years to include terrorism, cyber crime, and gang activity. The FBI has been responsible for helping law enforcement agencies across the United States solve crimes and has served and protected since 1908.


The FBI was started in 1908 during Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency. It started as a group of former Secret Service agents and detectives. Although the group went by several different names, it wasn't officially known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation until 1935. At the end of Roosevelt's term in 1909, there were 34 special agents, which Roosevelt recommended that they become part of the Department of Justice. From 1910-1921, the FBI typically investigated cases related to civil rights issues and white-collar crimes, such as bank fraud, land fraud, antitrust, copyright violations, naturalization, and forced labor.

In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was appointed as the Director of the FBI. His notable accomplishments include establishing the nation's first fingerprint tracking system and setting specific criteria and training standards for new agents. From 1921-1933, the FBI grew in numbers. There were 650 employees, including 441 special agents, and there were offices in 9 cities.

The stock market crash of 1929 caused an increase in crime throughout the 1930s. The FBI expanded their jurisdiction, published their first Most Wanted publication, and employed over 1,700 personnel with offices in 42 cities. During World War II, the FBI became more aware of crimes in the United States that involved immigrants from Japan, Germany, and Italy. During these investigations, the FBI uncovered several spies on U.S. soil.

In 1943, the FBI had 13,000 employees, including 4,000 agents. From 1945 to the 1960s, the FBI began to investigate espionage, which is spying or a spy ring, and sabotage, which is obstruction or disruption in the workplace. The numbers of employees steadily grew, but not until after the Korean War.

The 1960s and 1970s included the assassination of John F. Kennedy, as well as 3,000 bombings and 50,000 bomb threats in the United States. The FBI became involved in the protests to Vietnam, and the FBI headed up the investigation on President Richard Nixon and the Watergate Scandal.

Richard Nixon

During the 1970s, the FBI became more ethnically diverse and started to create tasks forces that included more female agents. At the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, the FBI employed 8,000 agents, 11,000 support employees, and had 59 field offices.

In the 1980s, international crime became the center of attention with the FBI. They focused on terrorism and developed the Computer Analysis Team (CART) to retrieve evidence from computers. By 1988, there were 9,663 agents, 13,651 support employees, and 58 field offices.

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