Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
By WILLIAM LAMB and PETER SHINKLE
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — U.S. marshals working with local police arrested 345 fugitives in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois during a weeklong sweep this month that resulted in 9,000 arrests nationwide, federal officials announced Thursday.
The focus of the sweep, conducted between April 17 and last Sunday, was rounding up fugitives wanted on charges of committing violent sex crimes and of failing to register as sex offenders. Of the 345 people arrested in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois, 86 were wanted for violent sex crimes, officials said. Nationally, 1,102 suspected violent sex offenders were arrested.
Don Slazinik, U.S. marshal for the Southern District of Illinois, said he understood that many of those arrested would be back on the street after a short time in custody. But the operation served the public interest anyway, he said.
"You know, I'm a realist," he said. "But at least we've brought them back to justice, we know where they're at. If it's someone who failed to register, we'll get them registered. Every little thing that we do is still a success."
The first such sweep, conducted a year ago, resulted in more than 10,000 fugitive arrests.
Reginald Dozier, formerly of O'Fallon, Ill., was the first fugitive taken into custody as part of this month's sweep when he was arrested in Belleville at 12:01 a.m. on April 17, Slazinik said. Dozier, 39, was wanted by St. Louis County police, who accused him of failing to register as a sex offender based on a 1992 conviction on a sexual assault charge in St. Clair County.
Among those arrested in Missouri was Isaiah Brown, who was indicted in St. Louis in December on charges of forcible sodomy and deviant sexual assault. Brown, 39, was arrested in Florissant on April 19.
"Quite honestly, I think this is important to the public," Slazinik said at a press conference Thursday when asked about the significance of the sweep. "I think it tells people that we're not just going to let these people go where they want to go. I think it's important that they register. That's why a law was passed. I think they ought to be held to the fire."
He added "I think the public is going to be real encouraged by this kind of an operation and think to themselves, it's about time."
In Washington, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that he had made the prosecution of sex offenders a priority in his first 15 months at the Justice Department. The operation "targeted the worst of the worst," Gonzales said at a news conference.
In St. Louis and other areas in eastern Missouri, marshals working with state and local authorities arrested 194 fugitives, including 69 wanted for violent sexual offenses, according to Ron Henderson, the U.S. marshal in St. Louis.
The marshals and other agents broke into four teams of about 10 each and went to work. "When we went out, we were in force," Henderson said. None of those arrested tried to flee, he said.
Henderson said his office's deputy marshals worked with agencies including the St. Louis police, St. Louis County police, Ladue police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
In Illinois' southern district, which covers 38 counties, marshals worked with 24 local police departments and 10 sheriff's departments, Slazinik said. They arrested 151 suspects. Of those, 17 were sought for violent sexual offenses or for failure to register as sex offenders.
Hundreds of sex fugitives are arrested in Mo. sweep