It's 7:30 a.m. The tourists in Washington,D.C.,start to line up on the corner of E Street and 9th Street.
One hour later,when the doors of the J. Edgar Hoover Building open to the public,the small group has become one of the longest lines in the American capital.
Every year,around 500,000 tourists face this line and a wait of up to two hours to take the tour at the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters.
Edwin Cogswell,acting chief for the FBI Tour Unit,said tourists find the lab tour and the firearms demonstration the most interesting. Cogswell said that agents volunteer for tour duty for a month at a time and that the agency conducts 20 firearms demonstrations a day.
The tour begins with an introductory video about the FBI. It was founded in 1908 as the investigative branch of the Department of Justice and now is one of the most recognizable organizations in the world.
Today,the FBI has around 27,000 employees – 11,000 are special agents-working at 56 national field offices,400 resident agencies throughout the United States and 44 international field offices. The FBI investigates 250 kinds of crime. At the head of the list are the organized crime,kidnapping,white-collar,terrorism,spy and traffic of drugs.
At the second part of the tour,tourists get to know a little bit more about these kinds of crimes. In the exhibit,a combination of lights and sounds reproduces a gun battle between gangster Al Capone,his wife,Mae,and the FBI agents
. The Gangster Era,at the end of 1920s and beginning of 1930s,was one of the most dangerous ones in the FBI history. During this period,many violent crimes happened,including the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on Feb. 14,1929. Seven members or associates of the “Bugs” Moran mob were machine-gunned against a garage wall by rivals posing as police. Following this incident,the Congress passed a law giving FBI agents the right to carry weapons.
It was only at the beginning the ‘50s,though,that the FBI decided to create the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives' list. Since then,93 per cent on the list were captured,including two who were spotted by tourists who took the FBI tour.
The tour continues with a walk through the FBI laboratory,where visitors can view actual scientific examinations of evidence in FBI cases. They can also see jewelry worth $500,000,in FBI possession because it was bought with illicit money – the majority,deriving from drug traffic.
The Brazilian student Pedro Frej,17,on vacation in Washington,D.C.,liked seeing the 5,000- gun collection best.
“I love it,” he said. “I had never seen so many weapons in my life. It was worth waiting.” Frej arrived at the FBI at 8:15 a.m.,accompanied by the American family that hosted him during his one-year,exchange-student-program,in Charleston,W.Va.
On the last part of the tour,Frej could see three of those weapons – a pistol,a gun and a machine gun – being used by a special agent during a target demonstration. During the exhibition,the agent shot innumerable times,but during his 29 years on duty he has never pulled the trigger during action. The agent finished the 90-minute tour with an important message for the kids.
“I know it was fun,but don't try to do this at home,” the agent said. “Weapons are dangerous and they can kill you.”
Cogswell said one of the FBI's goals on the tour is gun safety. He and all the special agents who conduct the demonstrations encourage children,when they discover a weapon,to give it to an adult immediately.