NEW ORLEANS (KLFY) – The television show NCIS: New Orleans is about a fictional group of Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents who investigate crimes in and around New Orleans. It’s based on a real government agency.
A building on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter serves as exterior of the NCIS Headquarters on TV. But in real life the NCIS New Orleans office is located at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chasse.
Unlike the show which has four of five agents and a couple of forensic experts on standby… the real NCIS New Orleans has just two special agents who cover the entire state. And they’re well aware of the famous TV show modeled after their agency.
“They’re probably depicting what has happened at some office somewhere at any given point in time,” said Jeffrey Norton, one of the real NCIS New Orleans special agents.
He’s a federal law enforcement officer so his job can be dangerous… but not nearly as action packed as what’s depicted on the TV show.
“I’d almost be willing to say for every real hour of work I do I spend seven hours writing about it,” he admitted.
The New Orleans NCIS office investigates crimes involving Sailors and Marines and threats against the Department of the Navy. Agents investigate sexual assaults, burglaries, robberies and the occasional murder – on base and in the community. Because the office is so small, agents have to work closely with local police and sheriff’s departments.
“It’s really kind of put us on the map as a premiere federal law enforcement agency,” NCIS Supervisory Special Agent Erik Peterson said of the television show. He oversees the NCIS offices in New Orleans, Gulfport, and Meridian, Miss.
“I think they do a really good job of portraying fairly accurate story lines.”
But the show does have to take some liberties, especially with homicide cases.
“It may take a year to fully investigate it, take it to trial, actually get someone convicted and that just doesn’t happen in an hour,” Peterson said.
Agents use special lights to see traces of evidence left at crime scenes and have an interview room for suspects and witnesses. Sometime an NCIS forensic consultant from Jacksonville is flown in to help out. The evidence is then sent off to a crime lab.
As for chasing down the bad guys?
“On occasion but not very often,” Norton said.
The TV show sometimes films scenes at the naval air station. NCIS producers also consult with the Navy to make things as realistic as possible. NCIS: New Orleans relies on the expertise of retired NCIS agent D’Wayne Swear, who Norton used to work for.
“So if anybody represents NCIS New Orleans it would be D’wayne. D’wyane is NCIS New Orleans even though he retired almost seven years ago,” Norton said.
Swear works with the writers to make sure procedures are accurately portrayed. Peterson said the TV show does a good job of showing viewers how all the pieces of a case come together.