- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2005

The U.S. Marshals Service not only increased the number of fugitives it has arrested over the past four years by more than 50 percent, but it has improved performance and efficiency by dedicating five regional fugitive task forces to the apprehension of violent offenders, a report said yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said a review of the Marshals Service’s fugitive apprehension program found that the regional task forces arrested 21,600 violent offenders during fiscal 2004 — about 60 a day — while improving their efficiency in targeting violent fugitives.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said performance and efficiency improved because the agency increased the staff time dedicated to violent-fugitive investigations by 21 percent and because of the success of its five regional fugitive task forces, known as RTFs.

“Federal, state and local law-enforcement personnel work together in the RTFs across jurisdictional lines, sharing expertise and resources to apprehend the most dangerous fugitives,” Mr. Fine said.

He said investigators found that the task forces provided a more effective method of apprehending violent fugitives than district fugitive task forces, warrant squads and U.S. deputy marshals working individually. Mr. Fine said the number of violent fugitives apprehended in the task force districts increased 67 percent compared to a 45 percent increase in non-task force districts during the same four-year period.

The Justice Department has proposed the creation of six more regional task forces to cover more than 20 states and U.S. territories.

Despite the success of the program, Mr. Fine noted that the number of violent federal fugitives at large outpaced the Marshals Service’s progress in apprehending the offenders. Consequently, he said, the overall number of violent federal fugitives at large rose 3 percent from fiscal 2001 through fiscal 2004 — with 14,419 violent federal fugitives remaining at large at the end of last year.

“While the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives is not within the U.S. Marshals Service’s total control, it could further improve its performance by, among other things, assigning more violent fugitive cases to RTFs and other task forces,” Mr. Fine said.

The Marshals Service, in a memo submitted to Mr. Fine’s office, agreed with the report’s recommendations.

The regional task forces were created under the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 and are designed to combine the efforts of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies to locate and apprehend the most dangerous fugitives and assist in high-profile investigations.

They are divided into five areas: New York/New Jersey, the Pacific Southwest, the Great Lakes, the Southeast and the Capital Area, which targets the District, Maryland and Virginia.

The agency also leads more than 80 local fugitive task forces, many of which are funded through initiatives such as the High Density Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) task forces.

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