The name "Interpol" is often heard in movie theaters showing international crime or spy thrillers. But what exactly is this organization? Is it really an international police agency?
Here's how Interpol describes itself on its website (www.interpol.int):
"Our role is to enable police around the world to work together to make the world a safer place. Our high-tech infrastructure of technical and operational support helps meet the growing challenges of fighting crime in the 21st century.
"We work to ensure that police around the world have access to the tools and services necessary to do their jobs effectively. We provide targeted training, expert investigative support, relevant data and secure communications channels.
"This combined framework helps police on the ground understand crime trends, analyse information, conduct operations and, ultimately, arrest as many criminals as possible."
Interpol's headquarters is in Lyon, France. Like the United Nations, it is governed by a General Assembly, with day-to-day management handled by a secretary-general. The current Interpol Secretary-General is Ronald K. Noble, an American who has led the organization since 2000.
An FAQ on the U.S. Justice Department website says this about Interpol: "INTERPOL does not have its own law enforcement agents. INTERPOL provides investigative support and secure communications between law enforcement authorities and their counterparts in 190 INTERPOL member countries, as well as administering their access to INTERPOL databases, resources, and services."