The U.S. Marshals Service arrested more than 13,000 individuals with open warrants as part of a national operation aimed at targeting the “worst of the worst” violent, repeat offenders.
The Justice Department announced the results of the six-week fugitive sweep Wednesday, which targeted individuals wanted for crimes like homicides, sex assaults and aggravated assaults.
Dubbed Operation Violence Reduction, the sweep focused on 12 cities currently combatting upticks in violent crime, including Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and New Orleans.
“This was not a dragnet-type operation designed to arrest anyone with an outstanding warrant,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. “It was focused and targeted. That’s because we know that the majority of violence in our communities can usually be traced to a relatively small number of bad actors.”
Officials said the operation, which was up and running from Feb. 1 to March 11, brought in 8,045 fugitives who were targeted because of open warrants for violent crimes and another 5,446 fugitives who were arrested in the course of the operations.
Among those arrested, 559 were wanted for homicides and 946 for sex offenses, and 648 were known gang members.
In Baltimore alone, 148 fugitives — including 23 people wanted for murder — were arrested as part of the sweep.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the effort was important in the ongoing drive to restore confidence in the police force. He noted that the department is seeing “encouraging results in the homicide closure rate” so far this year and that witnesses are coming forward more often to provide tips about crimes.
“That is thanks in no small part to the rehabilitation that is in progress with the relationship between police and the community,” Commissioner Davis said. “We told folks in Baltimore that 2016 was going to be a different year.”
Protests and riots erupted in April after the police-custody death of Freddie Gray. Six Baltimore Police officers are set to stand trial later this year in connection with his death.
According to the Justice Department, those arrested nationwide as part of the sweep averaged a total of seven prior arrests and three prior convictions each. Despite the fact that the habitual offenders were back out on the street after, Ms. Yates said she did not believe the criminal histories highlighted any breakdown in the prosecution of repeat offenders.
Instead, she said the warrant sweep program was ensuring that the Justice Department focused resources on “defendants who really are having a significant negative impact on the safety of our communities.”
“That doesn’t mean that these folks shouldn’t and aren’t being prosecuted,” Ms. Yates said.
No law enforcement officials were killed or seriously wounded during the warrant sweep operation, but the operation wasn’t without incident. U.S. Marshals officials said six fugitives were killed in shootouts with law enforcement and five others committed suicide during the operations.