Review of the United States Marshals Service's
Apprehension of Violent Fugitives

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2005-008
July 2005
Office of the Inspector General


Executive Digest


The Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 directed the creation of fugitive apprehension task forces and encouraged the Department of Justice (Department) to focus on apprehending violent federal and state fugitives. In fiscal year (FY) 2001, the Department changed its strategic plan and shifted the focus of its fugitive apprehension efforts from all federal fugitives to violent federal and violent state fugitives.1 The United States Marshals Service (USMS), the federal governmentís primary agency for apprehending fugitives, is principally responsible for carrying out the Departmentís strategy. To apprehend fugitives of all types, Deputy Marshals in the 94 federal judicial districts (district) work individually or as members of warrant squads, district fugitive task forces, or Regional Fugitive Task Forces (RTF).2 The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated this review to evaluate the performance of the USMS in apprehending violent fugitives.3

To evaluate the USMSís performance, we analyzed trends in fugitive apprehensions using data from the USMSís Warrant Information Network (WIN) from FY 2001 to 2004. We also compared the number of violent fugitives apprehended to the amount of time (measured in staff years) that USMS personnel spent on fugitive investigations. In addition, to examine the effectiveness of the RTFs, we compared the number of violent fugitive apprehensions in the 15 districts included in the 5 existing RTFs to the number of violent apprehensions in the other 79 districts. We also surveyed all of the USMS district offices about their violent fugitive apprehension efforts.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The performance of the USMS in apprehending violent fugitives improved from FY 2001 to FY 2004. During that period, the USMS increased the number of violent fugitives it apprehended by 51 percent. We also found that the USMS became more efficient in apprehending violent fugitives. The number of violent fugitives apprehended per staff year increased from 18 violent fugitives in FY 2002 to 21 violent fugitives in FY 2004.4 We concluded that the USMSís performance improved primarily because the USMS increased the staff time dedicated to violent fugitive investigations by 21 percent and because the five RTFs created by the USMS were more efficient and effective at apprehending fugitives.5

Despite its improved performance, the USMS was unable to reduce the number of violent federal fugitives at large. From FY 2001 through FY 2004, the number of violent federal fugitives who remained at large increased by 3 percent to 14,419 fugitives.6 The Deputy Marshals we interviewed said that the number of violent federal fugitives sought by the USMS increased because the increased number of federal task forces throughout the country generated more federal fugitives. We found that the USMS also investigated more federal fugitives referred from other federal agencies, and that state and local law enforcement agencies requested more assistance from the USMS in apprehending fugitives.

Although the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives is not fully within the USMSís control, we identified three factors within the USMSís control that, if addressed, would improve its effectiveness at apprehending violent federal fugitives. The factors are that (1) not all districts assigned violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs and other task forces; (2) the USMS did not fully change its focus from apprehending all federal fugitives to apprehending violent federal and state fugitives; and (3) most USMS districts did not enter data regarding their state fugitives in WIN when the investigations were opened so that the USMS could more effectively focus its resources on apprehending violent fugitives.

Reasons for Improved Performance

The performance of the USMS in apprehending violent fugitives improved for two main reasons. First, from FY 2002 to FY 2004, the amount of time that Deputy Marshals and other personnel devoted to fugitive investigations increased by 21 percent, from 911 staff years to 1,104 staff years. The additional staff time devoted to fugitive investigations came from both new staff and staff redirected from other functions. The second reason for the USMSís improved performance was that the RTFs provided a more effective approach to apprehending violent fugitives. According to USMS personnel we interviewed, the wider geographic coverage of the RTFs, coupled with the Deputy Marshalsí and task force officersí authority to cross district boundaries to pursue fugitives, resulted in the USMS apprehending more violent fugitives.

Because of these two factors, not only did the USMS apprehend more federal fugitives Ė an increase of 51 percent from 14,348 to 21,600 Ė but it increased its overall efficiency. The increase in the number of violent federal fugitives apprehended was larger than the 21-percent increase in resources. Our analysis of the USMSís data also confirmed that the RTFs provided a more effective method of apprehending violent fugitives than district fugitive task forces, warrant squads, and Deputy Marshals working individually. While the USMS overall achieved a 51 percent increase in apprehensions, the number of violent fugitives apprehended in RTF districts increased by 67 percent from FY 2001 through FY 2004, as compared to a 45-percent increase in non-RTF districts over the same period. We also found that RTF districts achieved greater increases in their efficiency at apprehending violent fugitives. From FY 2002 through FY 2004, the RTF districts increased the number of violent fugitives apprehended per staff year from 17 to 22 fugitives, while the non-RTF districts increased the number of violent fugitives apprehended from 18 to 20 fugitives per staff year.

More Violent Federal Fugitives at Large

Despite the increased number of USMS violent fugitive apprehensions, the number of violent federal fugitives still at large increased by 3 percent during the last 4 years, from 14,046 in FY 2001 to 14,419 in FY 2004. Several factors beyond the control of the USMS contributed to the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives at large. The Deputy Marshals we interviewed stated that the increased number of federal task forces throughout the country generated more federal investigations. In addition, the USMS investigated more federal fugitives referred from other federal agencies. Also, after the Department changed its focus from apprehending all federal fugitives to apprehending violent federal and violent state fugitives, state and local law enforcement agencies requested more assistance from the USMS in apprehending fugitives.

Factors That Limited Violent Fugitive Apprehensions

Although the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives is not fully within the USMSís control, we identified three factors within the USMSís control that, we believe if addressed, would improve its effectiveness at apprehending violent federal fugitives. First, not all districts assigned violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces; second, the USMS did not fully shift its focus from apprehending all federal fugitives to apprehending violent fugitives; and third, most USMS districts did not enter data regarding their state fugitives in WIN when the investigations were opened so that the USMS could more effectively focus its resources on apprehending violent fugitives. We believe that by addressing these three factors, which we discuss in more detail below, the USMS could further improve the overall effectiveness of its fugitive apprehension program and help achieve the Departmentís strategic objective of reducing the number of violent fugitives at large.

Not All Districts Assigned Violent Federal Fugitive Investigations to Task Forces. We found that many districts did not assign violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs and other USMS task forces that operated in their districts. Moreover, the USMS had no written guidelines on whether the RTFs, other task forces, or the districtsí warrant squads should investigate violent federal fugitives. As a result, some Marshals did not assign violent federal fugitive investigations to task forces operating in their districts. Of the 88 districts that responded to our survey, 77 reported that they had RTFs or other task forces operating in their district. But of those 77 districts, 21 Ė including 7 RTF districts Ė reported that they assigned 25 percent or less of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces. Overall, 33 of the 77 districts reported that they assigned 50 percent or less of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces.

Some Marshals we interviewed stated that they were reluctant to assign their violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs because the Marshals did not have supervisory authority over the RTFs. Other Marshals stated that they retained the more complex violent fugitive investigations to develop the investigative capability of district Deputy Marshals. Other Marshals stated that they were concerned that assigning all violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces could undermine the morale of Deputy Marshals assigned to the district.

Focus Not Fully Shifted to Violent Fugitive Investigations. We found that the USMS had not fully shifted its focus to apprehending violent fugitives as directed by the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 and Department policy. We also found that the USMS had not established any performance goals related to the apprehension of violent fugitives. Instead, the USMS continued to track and report on its apprehensions of all federal fugitives.

The USMS was, to some extent, limited in its ability to shift its focus to apprehending violent fugitives because it is required to pursue all fugitives for whom it is responsible, whether or not they are known or suspected to be violent. Our analysis showed that 80 percent of USMS fugitive investigations in FY 2004 involved fugitives not known to be violent. Consequently, the "due diligence" requirement to pursue all fugitives limits the USMSís ability to fully shift its efforts to apprehend those who are violent.7

We also found that the RTFs did not limit the state fugitive investigations they accepted to only violent fugitives. To encourage the participation of state and local law enforcement agencies, the USMS accepted state fugitive investigations that did not involve violent fugitives. As a result, in FY 2004, 69 percent of the state fugitives apprehended in the RTF districts were not considered violent.

State Fugitive Investigations Not Entered in WIN. We found that not all USMS districts entered state fugitive investigations in WIN when they accepted them. In response to our survey, 52 of the 88 districts that responded reported that they did not do so. Because some districts did not record all state fugitive investigations in WIN until the investigations were closed, if at all, the USMS could not ensure its efforts were sufficiently focused on violent fugitives. In addition, it could not fully assess its progress at apprehending violent fugitives or assess the impact of accepting investigations not classified as violent on the performance of its fugitive apprehension program.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The improvement achieved by the USMS fugitive apprehension program Ė a 51-percent increase in apprehensions over a 4-year period Ė represents a significant contribution to the Departmentís efforts to reduce crime and improve public safety. However, because the number of violent federal fugitives at large has continued to increase, further improvements are needed.

We identified several areas in which the USMS can improve its apprehension of violent federal fugitives in order to reduce the number of violent federal fugitives at large. Some Marshals failed to assign violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs and other task forces. Because the RTFs were more effective and efficient, assigning violent fugitive investigations to them could improve the USMSís apprehension effort. Further, the assignment of investigations involving fugitives not classified as violent to the RTFs and other task forces hindered the effectiveness of the USMSís efforts to focus those resources on apprehending violent fugitives. Limiting the number of investigations involving fugitives not classified as violent that the RTFs and other task forces undertake would enable them to better focus on violent fugitives, as directed in the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 and Department policy. Also, the failure of districts to enter information in WIN when state fugitive investigations are opened by the USMS prevented the USMS from effectively focusing on violent state and federal fugitives. By entering data on state fugitive investigations when the investigations are opened, the USMS can better ensure its efforts are sufficiently focused on violent fugitives and fully assess its progress at apprehending violent fugitives at large.

The Departmentís October 2004 Fugitive Apprehension Report proposed the creation of six additional RTFs. Our analysis of the fugitive apprehension data indicates that the six new RTFs can be expected to apprehend more violent fugitives, and we believe the creation of new RTFs is warranted.

Therefore, to further improve the USMSís effectiveness in apprehending violent fugitives and to reduce the number of violent federal fugitives at large, we recommend that the USMS:

  1. Establish goals and measures to track the USMSís performance in apprehending violent fugitives and its progress in reducing the number of violent fugitives at large.

  2. Require districts to enter state fugitive investigations in WIN when the investigations are opened by the USMS.

  3. Establish criteria for districts to ensure that violent federal fugitive investigations are assigned to the RTFs and other task forces.

  4. Analyze WIN data to ensure that the districts appropriately focus on violent federal and state fugitive investigations.

  5. Consider creating the six RTFs proposed in the Departmentís October 2004 Fugitive Apprehension Report.



Footnotes

  1. The Departmentís FY 2000-2005 Strategic Plan, published in September 2000, focused the Departmentís apprehension efforts on federal fugitives, and the FY 2001-2006 Strategic Plan, published in November 2001 to address the events of September 11, focused the Departmentís apprehension efforts on violent federal and state fugitives.
  2. There are currently 5 RTFs encompassing 15 districts. The RTFs were created under the authority of the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 to reduce the number of violent fugitives at large by promoting cooperation among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In October 2004, the Department proposed creating 6 additional RTFs encompassing 43 districts.
  3. The term "violent fugitives" includes both violent federal fugitives and violent state fugitives. We defined "fugitives apprehended" as those arrested by the USMS, arrested by another agency at the direction of the USMS, or who surrendered.
  4. The USMS could not provide data on the amount of time its personnel spent on fugitive investigations in FY 2001.
  5. Most recently, the USMS used its RTFs and district task forces to coordinate Operation FALCON (Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally). Operation FALCON involved more than 900 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and resulted in the arrest of 10,340 fugitives from April 4 through 10, 2005. The USMS focused Operation FALCONís efforts on apprehending fugitives wanted for gang-related crimes, homicide, crimes involving use of a weapon, crimes against children and the elderly, crimes involving sexual assaults, and other crimes of violence.
  6. The number of violent state fugitives under investigation by the USMS and still at large could not be determined because of incomplete data in WIN. As Marshals in 52 of 88 districts who responded to our survey reported, most districts did not routinely enter state fugitive investigations in WIN when an investigation was opened. Deputy Marshals were not required to, and in many districts did not, enter state fugitive investigation data into WIN until after they arrested the fugitive.
  7. "Due diligence" requirements are designed to ensure that a prosecution may proceed under the federal Speedy Trial Act. Under 18 U.S.C. ß3161 (h)(3)(B) the government must be able to demonstrate that a defendantís whereabouts were unknown either because the defendant was avoiding apprehension or because the defendantís whereabouts could not be determined after due diligence.



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