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Tremaroli marks six months leading FBI's Albany division

Craig Tremaroli, special agent in charge of the FBI's Albany Field Office
Jim Levulis
Craig Tremaroli, special agent in charge of the FBI's Albany Field Office

Special Agent Craig Tremaroli has been leading the FBI’s Albany division since November 2023, taking over for Janeen DiGuiseppi. Tremaroli, a former police officer and detective, has worked for the FBI in Indianapolis, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. He’s spent the first six months as special agent in charge traveling the vast area covered by the Albany Field Office, which includes much of upstate New York and Vermont. Tremaroli spoke with WAMC’s Jim Levulis.

Tremaroli: I think what I'm seeing here in our division is really reflective of what I've seen in my prior positions. The same things impacting the national capital region is very similar to the threats we have faced in all the field offices I've represented prior. So they're very similar. They're nuanced. They're different. Different threat actors, but the themes are pretty similar.

What are some of those threat themes?

Well, the themes, I'll go back to kind of what our priorities are right, our number one priority is to protect the Americans from a terrorist incident or activity. That is our number one priority. And I don't see that changing. However, as I travel around our area of responsibilities and meet with chiefs and sheriffs and the superintendent, violent crime is on the top of their mind. This is where the FBI, we have FBI-led task forces, working with our county, state and local law enforcement agencies to disrupt those violent incidences when they occur, and find what avenues best whether it's a local prosecution or federal prosecution, how are facts bear out.

It is a large region, right?

Thirty-two counties in Upstate-Central New York. And then Albany Field Office covers the entire state of Vermont. And we have two resident agencies, one in Burlington and one in Rutland, Vermont.

Given your experience so far, what's been your relationship with the number of law enforcement partners that are working on the local level across that huge area?

I am completely amazed at the partnership levels that we have in our territory. You know, partnerships are the bedrock of our success. Every successful initiative we have in the FBI is related to our partnerships. It's amazing. We have great relationships in most of the major cities, counties, and our state agencies are represented our task forces. These agencies provide full-time or part-time law enforcement officers who sit in our space and work federal investigations. So it's a huge commitment. And that just goes to show you our level of participation where the numbers are lower in law enforcement agencies across the country, but they're still willing to give us one of their best assets, which is their people to work on our FBI-led task forces ultimately to serve the American people and protect this country.

Your predecessor in this role Special Agent Janeen DiGuiseppi mentioned violent crime as one of those areas where she wanted to see greater collaboration between federal, state, local agencies. In speaking with her, over her two plus years in this role, she said she was able to accomplish that. Have you seen that coming into this position, that sort of the bedrock was already laid? And is that cooperation different than it used to be say 20 years ago?

Well, when I walked into this, I will tell you the partnerships was at the highest levels. And so my goal, I was a police officer before I came into the FBI, my goal is to continue to maintain and increase that partnership at all levels. We as an organization are not successful without our partners. That's how critical partnerships are. And when we talk about partnerships, and we're talking primarily law enforcement, but partnerships does not end with law enforcement. Think of academia, the private sector. To be successful and truly accomplish our mission set, which nobody else, no other agency has it, which is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution, our partnerships have to reach beyond what it was 20 years ago, to all walks of life. Go back to the “see something, say something,” we need relationships based on respect and collaboration in order to impact our mission set. And so Janeen, and the prior SACs did a great job. And my job is to continue that foundation that was laid in increase those partnerships as we go on throughout my tenure.

Now there has been some turnover in this position here in Albany, a decent amount. I'll get right to it. Do you plan to be here for a short time, long time? Is this turnover part of the process? Is it designed by the FBI to rotate different leaders in?

What I can tell you is the FBI is a large organization made up of 38,000 plus men and women. There's a lot of leadership positions. If you look at historically special agents in charge, you generally don't get one that stays 10, 12, 15 years. This is, throughout our career, in my opinion, the pinnacle of leadership position. So I'm here. I brought my entire family here. This is my third move in the last four years. My kids would like to graduate high school from here. I’m invested in this community. My wife has invested in this community. My wife just started working in this community. So my intent is to be here, as long as the director and Washington DC allows me to stay here where I'm still effective. And at the end of the day is the folks that we serve here, the community, but as well as the men and women inside this space here of the FBI wanted an effective leader. So I want to stay as long as I'm an effective leader for this office.

One of those prior roles for you in the FBI was unit chief of the National Covert Operations sector, supervising the FBI undercover program. Now I imagine in this role, you're in one of the more public-facing roles that the FBI has. How have you squared those varied roles?

Previously, you know, in covert operations, you're obviously behind the scenes. But it gave me a great opportunity to see the impact that we had in the intelligence and the investigations we worked. Now I’m on the other side of it. Now I am engaging with our community leaders, ensuring those partnerships are sound. So when our folks need to use those undercover assets, we use it in the right way. And I'm able to provide those tools and resources based on my prior experiences, knowing the success, knowing how we do it, knowing the right way to do it. But today, my job is engaging with partners at all levels as we spoke about not just with law enforcement, academia, private sector, they're all important. So much of my day is traveling around this area, and meeting with folks listening to them, understanding what impacts them day to day, and making sure our priorities align with protecting the American people.

You mentioned that intersection of, private, public, economic, I'm sure social in there. Seemingly you can't go a day without picking up a newspaper or listening to the radio, turn on the television and you hear discussions about artificial intelligence. There a lot of questions in terms of how it's going to impact the economy, society, sectors like education. I wonder how you might be viewing it in terms of how artificial intelligence might be impacting law enforcement? And is it similar to you know what has come to be known as cybercrime?

What I will tell you, one of our guiding principles is innovation. Artificial intelligence hits that seam of innovation. It's new. So I don't think the research is fully flushed out on what it is. But what I can tell you from the FBI, we have a lot of rules and policies governing the use of it, and how we adapt and interact with it. So what I can tell you is, we are committed to operating within that space, because it's the new innovative thing that's going on. But we have rules that govern its use, and then how we apply it in investigations, operations and intelligence. So it's still new, I think we have more to come out in the coming years to see the true impact here, not only in America, but in the world.

As it pertains to on the threat side, too. Is that a developing threat theme as we discussed?

Well, we've seen it in some of our cases. AI being used, whether it's through the virtual kidnapping space, or we've seen it as well as the crimes against children space, we're seeing it. But it's new. It's still evolving. It's a learning process, but we are continuing to understand it as we're seeing it pop up across the threats that we face and the cases that we work.

Now 2024 is an election year. And in the past several years I'll say, the Justice Department, the FBI has seemingly been discussed in a political way, at times. Obviously, the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot, the FBI’s role in investigating that, that's just one example of that. When the FBI and the Justice Department are discussed in a political level by leaders, by the public, does that trickle down to agents working in the field here?

What I can tell you is the FBI is a nonpartisan federal law enforcement agency. I hear those things and albeit it's frustrating to hear that But I don't see it. I've been in multiple field offices, multiple divisions in Washington DC. I've heard it. But when I walk in these doors, and I see the men and women working the right cases, doing the right thing all the time, it just becomes a distraction. I'm here, as I represent the men and women of our office, I believe, and I'm committed, we do the right work, with our right partners, ultimately, for the people that we serve, which are victims and witnesses all in pursuit of justice. So albeit it’s frustrating. When I talk to our line personnel, it's a distraction. We're committed to serve the American people and uphold the Constitution in a nonpartisan, objective way.

And is that how you combat that distraction?

We focus on the work. And I think we're evaluated by the partners we work with which I already spoke about our chiefs and our sheriff, who continue to provide us resources when they're also combating hiring, retention issues. If the confidence in them was low, they wouldn't provide us their biggest asset, which is their people. And ultimately, the people that we serve, which are our victims. Victims didn't come forward and report crimes to us and didn't have confidence in us. Those are the people that we work with. And those are the people we work for. That's a good understanding of the trust and the confidence in the American people that we serve. So although I hear this stuff right, going on in DC, that's not what I see and it's not what's represented, when I go out in the community. Our cases are evaluated in a different branch of government. We see these cases getting prosecuted, and decisions and outcomes coming out of these cases. Those are independent of the FBI. So I'll go back to, we're a nonpartisan, federal law enforcement agency, working in objective manner. We're fact finders. We collect facts, present those facts to the United States Attorney's Office for prosecution.

Final question about your previous experience. You served in the Kansas City field office. Now this office does not go all the way to Buffalo, but it does include a large swath of upstate New York. So who do you got: Kansas City Chiefs or the Buffalo Bills?

As I told all of the employees here in the Albany field office, I will root for the Buffalo Bills until they play the Kansas City Chiefs. And that's raw, especially after what happened last season here in the NFL. Kansas City, I was there I believe for a little over four years. Just like Albany, I'm getting invested in this community. We were invested in that community. This is new, I would love the Buffalo Bills to be in our area of responsibility. I would have the ability to interact a little bit more. But Buffalo I believe is a five-hour commute. But I will root for both of them. And my family and I are planning to go to some Buffalo Bills games this season. And definitely when Kansas City comes into Buffalo, we're going to also attend that game as well.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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