The External Effects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Reprioritization Efforts
(Redacted for Public Release)
Audit Report 05-37
Office of the Inspector General
FBI officials at the headquarters and field office level commented that they were not pursuing fugitive investigations as aggressively as they had in the past in light of the FBI’s reprioritization and reallocation of resources. While officials at USMS Headquarters indicated that they had not observed a reduced effort by the FBI in this area, USMS officials at several of the district offices we visited remarked that they had noticed a lessened effort by the FBI in fugitive-related matters although they said this change had not affected their ability to address an increased caseload. The majority of state and local law enforcement agency representatives we interviewed did not indicate that their work had been negatively affected by any changes in the FBI’s efforts with respect to fugitive-related matters.
We analyzed FBI agent utilization and casework data to determine the changes occurring in the FBI’s overall fugitive-related efforts, as well as within specific field offices.
The FBI’s Overall Fugitive-Related Efforts
The FBI uses several investigative classifications that are categorized as fugitive-related matters. According to an FBI official, the majority of fugitive investigations fall within one of three investigative classifications: (1) Classification 088A (Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) – Crime of Violence); (2) Classification 088B (UFAP – Property +$25,000 etc.); or (3) Classification 088C (UFAP – All Others). We focused our data analyses on these three areas and found that the FBI has reduced its efforts in fugitive-related matters since FY 2000. Specifically, we found that the FBI’s combined utilization of agents on these three investigative classifications decreased from 181 to 55 on‑board agents between FYs 2000 and 2004, an almost 70 percent reduction. Exhibit 7‑1 provides details on the changes for each of the FBI’s primary fugitive classifications during our review period.
Additionally, our analyses show that the FBI opened nearly 13,000 fewer fugitive cases during FY 2004 than it had in FY 2000 in these classifications. In FY 2000, the FBI initiated 14,800 fugitive investigations, while in FY 2004 that number decreased to 1,808 – an 88 percent reduction. When looking specifically at individual classifications, we identified the majority of the FBI’s fugitive cases in FYs 2000 and 2004 were categorized as Classification 088A matters. This particular area also experienced the greatest reduction in case openings during the 5-year review period. Specifically, the FBI opened 13,387 Classification 088A cases during FY 2000 and only 1,721 during FY 2004, a reduction of 11,666 cases that accounts for 90 percent of the overall decrease in fugitive case openings. Our review of the number of case serials inputted for fugitive cases further show the FBI’s decreased fugitive effort. In FY 2004, the FBI filed 119,643 fewer case serials on fugitive-related matters than it had in FY 2000, declining from 168,715 serials to 49,072.
FBI Field Division Fugitive-Related Efforts
The information gathered during our site visits supports the changes reflected in our analyses of FBI data. FBI officials at each field office we visited said they had reduced their emphasis on fugitive cases. In some field offices, this has meant elimination of separate fugitive-related squads. For example, the Chicago Field Office used to have a separate squad focusing solely on fugitive matters. After 9/11, this squad was merged with two other violent crime squads. Thus, the office currently has one squad addressing three separate crime areas, while previously it had a distinct squad handling each matter on its own. Prior to the reorganization, the fugitive squad was comprised of eight FBI agents, as well as task force officers from other law enforcement agencies. The current violent crime squad, in which fugitive investigations are handled along with other criminal investigations, consists of 12 FBI agents and other task force members.
We analyzed the FBI’s agent utilization and casework data related to each location’s fugitive efforts. Exhibit 7-2, which details the changes experienced by the field offices between FYs 2000 and 2004, shows that each office we visited has undergone considerable reductions in both categories.
Officials at nearly every USMS district office visited remarked about the decline in the FBI’s investigative efforts in pursuing fugitives, commenting that the number of cases the FBI is now handling in this area has dropped considerably. Additionally, some USMS officials said that it seems to take the FBI a longer period of time to address the fugitive cases it works.
The FBI’s shift in priorities away from fugitive matters had various effects on other law enforcement agencies. For example, USMS officials at the sites we visited commented that their fugitive caseloads had increased since FY 2000, which they perceived as a result of the FBI’s reduced efforts in this area. Additionally, during our interviews some state and local law enforcement representatives expressed concerns regarding the FBI’s work on fugitive investigations. The following sections present the different concerns articulated by non-FBI agency officials.
Increased Fugitive Caseload
Some USMS officials at the district offices we visited indicated that their fugitive caseloads have increased since FY 2000. Besides the increase in their caseloads, these officials remarked that state and local law enforcement agencies have been contacting the USMS more often for assistance on fugitive matters.
The USMS district officials said their offices have been able to handle the additional fugitive-related matters. However, many discussed the limited resources with which the USMS has to conduct its duties. In particular, they expressed concerns regarding their ability to maintain their increased caseloads with current personnel and funding levels.
State and Local Fugitive Assistance
When a local department contacts the FBI for assistance on a fugitive matter, the FBI will often obtain a federal warrant, charging the subject with “Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution” (UFAP). Once a UFAP is obtained, no other federal law enforcement agency can take on the matter unless the FBI first annuls the UFAP. Although the majority of state and local officials we interviewed did not comment on the FBI’s fugitive efforts, officials at one department raised concerns about the FBI’s work on UFAP investigations. Specifically, they explained that they have over 30 UFAPs with the FBI that have been outstanding for prolonged periods of time. They stated that if the FBI does not intend to address these cases, it should inform the department so that it can pursue other avenues to apprehend the felons, such as requesting assistance from other agencies.
According to USMS representatives, state and local agencies have requested USMS assistance on the apprehension of fugitives more frequently now than in the past. They further noted that this increase is partly a result of the FBI taking a longer period of time to address fugitive investigations.
Both the FBI and USMS have task forces involved in the apprehension of fugitives, and each solicits participation from state and local law enforcement agencies.59 According to USMS Headquarters officials, state and local law enforcement agencies do not have adequate resources to participate in both FBI and USMS task forces; thus, they must choose one or the other. The USMS officials further stated that more times than not, these agencies opt for the FBI’s fugitive task forces because the FBI-led task force is able to offer them overtime funding and vehicles. As a result, the USMS officials believed that their agency’s fugitive task force operations had been negatively affected by the FBI’s fugitive efforts.
For example, USMS Headquarters solicited feedback from various USMS districts as to the occurrence of duplicate fugitive task forces and any resulting impact. Of the 20 districts that responded, 19 indicated that the FBI had an existing fugitive-related task force in place or was creating such a task force. We reviewed the USMS district submissions and found that in at least two locations the USMS reported that it had been negatively affected by the FBI’s fugitive task forces because members had left the USMS task force and joined the FBI.
It is clear from our discussions with USMS and FBI Headquarters officials that the two agencies are not effectively communicating or coordinating their efforts in the area of fugitive apprehension. FBI Headquarters officials stated that the FBI and the USMS have met to discuss the coordination of fugitive apprehension efforts but no concrete resolution has resulted from these discussions. Moreover, officials responsible for overseeing fugitive operations at both agencies acknowledged the lack of a coordinated approach, and we believe that the relationship between these two agencies could be improved.
Survey Results on Impact
Our survey results indicated that the majority of responding state and local law enforcement agencies had been minimally affected in the area of fugitives as a result of the FBI’s reprioritization. Specifically, only 5 percent of the respondents noted a negative impact from the FBI’s reduction in fugitive-related investigations. Exhibit 7‑3 is a graphical representation of the survey results.
FBI data indicates a decline in the number of agents used for fugitive investigations. In addition, FBI data shows almost 90 percent fewer fugitive cases being opened in FY 2004 than in FY 2000. Comments by both FBI and USMS field officials concur with the results of our data analyses. In addition, our review indicated that the coordination and communication between the FBI and the USMS on fugitive matters needs improvement.