The new head of the FBI in Boston vowed to take a collaborative approach to law enforcement, partnering with local authorities and other federal agencies to combat drug activity, gun crimes, and terrorism — what he considers his agency's top priority.
"There's virtually nothing we can do in the FBI that's not done in a task-force concept," Harold H. Shaw said in an interview with the Globe. "The critical element is partnerships."
Shaw, who arrived in the Boston division in October, cited his experience as a counter-terrorism agent in New York, where a joint terrorism task force was formed 30 years ago.
"The tricks of the trade I learned were from the task-force partners who were doing it a lot longer than I was," he said.
He replaces Vincent Lisi, who retired at the end of August to take a job in the private sector. As special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office, Shaw oversees the bureau's Northeast region, which includes Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Shaw, 49, grew up in Weymouth and Hingham. The father of four is a graduate of Norwich University and served in the Army for more than nine years.
He joined the FBI in 1999, assigned to the New York Division. As a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, he investigated the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen, in 2000, and he was a case agent in the investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
He has also worked in the CIA's Counterterrorism Center – one of the FBI's first liaisons to that agency in the post 9/11 era – and later served as special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division in New York, where he managed the division's international investigations. In that position, he led efforts to disrupt the plot to bomb the New York Federal Reserve and also worked to help identify and locate subjects tied to the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Most recently, Shaw has served as the special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division in New York, where he was responsible for counterintelligence, counterproliferation, and counterespionage programs.
Shaw said that the FBI has developed a national strategy to be not only an investigatory agency but also an intelligence agency, and he will take that approach in the Northeast region as well.
He said terrorism remains a priority, pointing out that the Boston Marathon bombings show it remains a real and evolving threat.
"The places that have been attacked have taken it seriously. It has happened before, it can happen again," he said.
Shaw said he hopes to build relationships with State Police Colonel Richard McKeon and Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans "We're all in this together,'' he said. "The harsh reality is, in today's day and age, if something were to happen, we'll win as a team or lose as a team.''
Shaw said as well that he will take that task-force approach to other law enforcement concerns, such as economic espionage and cybersecurity – two other national concerns.
Locally, Shaw has heard from municipal police chiefs that drugs and gangs are both concerns, and "so it's my concern" he said. He cited the regional opioid crisis and said law enforcement officials will target gangs and organized crime groups, rather than low-level dealers. Also, he said, law enforcement will investigate health care fraud that leads to a proliferation of prescription painkillers in city streets.
"Where is this stuff coming from? How can we make the biggest impact," he said.
Shaw acknowledged one FBI investigation that remains critical to Boston alone: solving the notorious heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
"We will continue to solicit every lead and attack every lead that we get," he said. "We understand its significance to the Greater Boston community."