07/10/2009

Cops nationwide nab more than 35K fugitives

By Don Babwin
Associated Press

CHICAGO — Police searching for fugitive sex offenders, violent criminals and gang members made more than 35,000 arrests nationwide during an annual monthlong crackdown - the most in the roundup's 5-year history and nearly double the number from last year - authorities announced Thursday.

The U.S. Marshals Service said the latest "Operation Falcon" captured 433 murder suspects and 900 gang members. Many of the fugitives were arrested on weapons and narcotics charges. The roundup also netted nearly 5,800 violent criminals along the U.S.-Mexico border, an area that has seen a spike in violence in recent months.

"Conducted during the month of June, it (Operation Falcon) has set the record for the largest number of violent criminals to be captured during a 30-day period," U.S. Marshals Director John Clark said at a news conference in Chicago.Officials said a major reason for the increase in arrests since the program's inception in 2005 - there were 19,000 arrests last year - is that more law enforcement agencies are participating.

William Sorukas Jr., chief of domestic investigation for the Marshals Service, said 600 additional departments were involved this year, bringing the total to 2,224 local, state and federal agencies.


Executing a warrant - Eastern Arkansas. (Photo: U.S. Marshals)

Clark said more than 5,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies were temporarily made deputy marshals, allowing them to move across county and state boundaries in search of fugitives.

The operation also resulted in the recovery of nearly 600 firearms and more than $342,000 in cash, according to the Marshals Service.

Among those captured was a North Carolina man charged with raping a 12-year-old girl, a California gang member charged in a drive-by shooting that left one rival gang member dead and another injured, and a Florida man charged in a triple murder.

Officials said a handful of arrests were made outside the country, including that of a man in the Dominican Republic who was suspected in the rape of a minor and 25 other sex charges in Florida.

At least one arrest stemmed from crimes that occurred outside the United States. A man taken into custody in New Jersey is suspected of using his position as a police officer in Poland to allow a prostitution ring to operate. Authorities say the man was involved in smuggling underage girls from Romania to Poland and forcing them to become prostitutes.

Clark and others noted that though successful, "Operation Falcon" is impossible to run year-round, in large part because the agencies are busy with their own programs and do not have the resources to participate in a national crackdown for more than a limited time.

William Kushner, the police chief in nearby Berwyn, said most departments in the nation have no more than 50 officers and are stretched so thin that it is difficult, if not impossible, to take officers away from their normal duties.

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