April 15, 2005 in Nation/World

Sweep nets thousands of fugitives

Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – More than 10,000 fugitives wanted for murder, rape, child abuse and other crimes have been arrested in the largest coordinated crackdown by federal, state and local law enforcement officials in history.

In Idaho, the crackdown netted 44 arrests and resolved 51 warrants in Ada, Canyon and Owyhee Counties, said Patrick McDonald, U.S. marshal for the district of Idaho.

“We focused on the worst to begin with and then took what we could get,” McDonald said Thursday. “We don’t have the resources to go out on an everyday basis and do what we’ve done here.”

The bulk of the Idaho arrests were for burglary or narcotics charges, McDonald said. The effort also resulted in one homicide arrest, seven sexual assault arrests and six assault arrests.

The number of arrests during the nationwide, weeklong effort was 10 times the average for such a period, according to the U.S. Marshals Service, which led the nationwide dragnet timed to coincide with National Victims Rights Week.

At the same time, however, those arrests represent just 1 percent of the 1 million fugitives in the FBI’s national database, according to the Marshals Service.

More than 150 of those nabbed April 4-10 were wanted for murder, 550 were sought on rape or sexual assault charges, and more than 600 had outstanding arrest warrants for armed robbery, federal officials said Thursday.

Among those captured were 150 gang members and 100 unregistered sex offenders, said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who held a news conference with U.S. Marshals Service Director Ben Reyna to announce the results of “Operation Falcon” – an acronym for Federal And Local Cops Organized Nationally.

Gonzales said more than 70 percent of those picked up had prior arrests for violent crimes.

“We know from history – and from the bitter experiences of far too many victims – that a fugitive with a rap sheet is more desperate, more predatory, and more likely to commit the crimes that plague citizens and communities,” Gonzales said at the news conference

The number of fugitives caught was at 10,472 Thursday, but officials said that could change as local police finish processing heavy caseloads from the past week.

Congress gave the Marshals Service more money and authority to go after fugitives when it refocused the FBI’s mission toward stopping terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said Marshals Service spokesman David Turner, noting that the agency now has five permanent regional task forces to search for fugitives.

The Marshals Service spent $900,000 on the weeklong exercise, most of it to pay overtime to local and state police. More than 3,000 officers from 960 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies took part.

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