WASHINGTON - The U.S. Marshals Service and local police agencies arrested more than 10,000 fugitives last week in an aggressive nationwide sweep that ranks as the largest single dragnet in U.S. history, the Justice Department announced yesterday.
The April 4-10 campaign - dubbed Operation Falcon and timed to coincide with National Crime Victims' Rights Week - included the arrests of more than 160 murder suspects, 550 rape and sexual assault suspects, and over 150 alleged gang members, officials said.
Operation Falcon is an acronym for Federal And Local Cops Organized Nationally. More than 3,000 federal agents and local police officers worked on the raids each day, and more than 900 separate agencies were involved.
Criminal justice experts said that by apprehending thousands of fugitives in a matter of days, the operation underscored the low priority that law enforcement agencies often give to locating people who have jumped bail, violated parole, or otherwise evaded state and federal courts.
"The dirty little secret is that there usually is not enough effort and manpower put into apprehension of fugitives," said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Toledo who studies criminal justice issues. "Most fugitives are aware of this, and it makes the system a joke ... It's never been a top priority."
The number of arrests during the weeklong effort was 10 times the average for such a period, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
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.
Texas led the way in the sweep with 902 arrests, followed by Tennessee with 785, Florida with 685, Ohio with 631, Oklahoma with 565, California with 507, Illinois with 401, Pennsylvania with 368, Louisiana with 349, and New York with 345. In Michigan, 116 people were arrested.
In Ohio, Daniel Casey, who was arrested Sunday in connection with a Toledo bank robbery last week, and Gregorio Garcia, captured Tuesday on charges of beating his girlfriend and causing her to miscarry a 10-week-old fetus, were among those arrested in the roundup, Steve Miller of the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Mr. Miller said marshals worked with state and local law enforcement to capture Casey, Mr. Garcia, and other fugitives.
Casey, 46, who was arrested in a Fort Wayne, Ind.-area hotel, is accused of robbing the Charter One Bank branch, 1460 South Byrne Rd., on April 8. He remained in the Lucas County jail last night in lieu of a $100,000 bond.
Authorities said he is a suspect in the robbery of the same bank on Saturday and a carjacking that occurred in the parking lot at 1 Owens Corning Pkwy. before the April 8 bank robbery.
Law enforcement officers picked up Mr. Garcia, 23, in Fremont on Tuesday on charges of aggravated murder, rape, and aggravated burglary in connection with the beating and sexual assault of his pregnant former girlfriend in Springfield Township.
The woman suffered a miscarriage of her 10-week-old fetus after the incident, authorities said.
Mr. Garcia was being held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of a $600,000 bond.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the 10,340 arrests nationwide were the result of a "concentrated, intensive effort" not possible under normal circumstances. But he said the operation would serve as a model for future cooperation between federal and local agencies. Ninety percent of the cases involved local or state warrants.
"There are clearly bad guys out on the streets that need to be rounded up," Mr. Gonzales said at a news conference with Marshals Service director Benigno Renya. "More needs to be done. We understand that, and I think we're heartened by these results."
Large backlogs of warrants exist in most local jurisdictions, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, even though many local law enforcement agencies have special units dedicated to locating fugitives. Fugitives remain on the street because they often cross state or jurisdictional lines. Without a federal officer, authorities cannot enter another city or county to make an arrest.
The Marshals Service, which has been given added responsibilities by Congress as the FBI turns its attention to preventing terrorism, has set up a series of regional task forces focused on apprehending fugitives.
Last week's dragnet brought in some 1,500 suspects linked to murder, rape, kidnapping, or other serious violent offenses, according to the Marshals Service. Mr. Gonzales said about 70 percent had prior arrest records.
Among the cases highlighted by authorities was a 24-year-old suspect wanted by Dallas police who allegedly killed a man by shooting him five times after leaving a drug house and a 21-year-old Atlanta fugitive who was found hiding under a trap door in his kitchen.
"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," Mr. Gonzales said.