Dallas FBI office sees drop in street crimes, but spike in cybercrimes due to COVID-19

Shaun Rabb

Dallas FBI office sees drop in street crimes, but spike in cybercrimes due to COVID-19

FBI agents are trying not to become virus victims while fighting crime. Now, some of what they are fighting is because of the coronavirus.

DALLAS – Like all of law enforcement, the Dallas FBI is battling the same invisible enemy as the rest of us: COVID-19 in its building and on the street.

Agents are trying not to become virus victims while fighting crime. Now, some of what they are fighting is because of the coronavirus.

Matt Desarno was named special-agent-in-charge of the Dallas FBI Field Office. May 13 will be his one-year anniversary at his position. He’s now facing a new enemy the is definitely not most wanted.

RELATED: Coronavirus coverage

And like the rest of society touched by COVID-19, two agents and a civilian employee have been infected. All are now out of hospitals and recovered. The agency is adapting.

“We’ve got alternate work schedules,” Desarno said. “We’re using telework where we can. We’re clearly social distancing. We’re paying a lot of attention to hand hygiene and social interaction.”

But it’s not always possible.

Sunday’s DART bus hijacking brought police, deputies, Texas Rangers and FBI all close together and only a few masks.

READ MORE: Garland Police: DART hijacking suspect wanted to kill officers

“Unfortunately, we cannot always maintain six feet of distance all the time,” Desarno said. “And we cannot always do things on our time and on our schedule.”

Desarno says it’s clear violent crime has not stopped, but orders closing businesses and keeping people home has also impacted street crimes.

“The fact that there are not mass gatherings of people and a lot of business are closed means commercial robberies have gone down a little bit,” he said.

Street crimes are down a little, but cybercrimes are up a lot.

“Because of the environment we’re in with COVID-19,” Desarno said.

The internet is the gateway with fake websites selling masks and gloves to get your personal information. Some sites are even offering so-called-cures for coronavirus.

“Many more networks are allowing remote access by personal devices. The cyber landscape is much broader,” Desarno said.

Part of that landscape is students engaged in online learning.

“That’s fertile targeting ground for child sexual predators,” Desarno said.

New challenges brought by a new coronavirus add to the list of enemies the FBI is fighting.

“Our adversaries are criminal actors, nation and state advisories. And in this case now, our common adversary is this virus that is really challenging,” Desarno said. “But the FBI performs well in crisis.”

Desarno says the increase in fraud, scams and other cybercrimes has exploded exponentially.

Anyone who may have been a victim of a cybercrime can file a complaint with the FBI here: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases


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