Thursday, November 27, 2003

Federal marshals have arrested several fugitives under a new partnership with area law-enforcement agencies that will put the marshals in charge of tracking fugitives throughout most of the metropolitan area.

“All violent-crimes warrants will now go through the [U.S.] Marshals Service,” said Tom O’Brien, senior deputy U.S. marshal and lead investigator on three recent captures of murder suspects.

“Instead of these different organizations having a backlog of warrants and just sitting on them, [the warrants] will all go to the same place, and we’re going to do something about them. We’re all on board and on the same page, and that’s the bottom line,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Under the Metropolitan Area Joint Enforcement Initiative, many area law-enforcement agencies, including Metropolitan Police, are turning their warrant squads over to the Marshals Service to help lower the crime rate. The U.S. marshals began the initiative this summer.

About 30 law-enforcement agencies are expected to cooperate with the task force, including Montgomery County Police, the FBI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Once all the agencies officially have joined, the task force will handle all of their violent-crime fugitive cases.

Lt. Robert Atchesson, head of the D.C. police warrant squad, said the department benefits because the Marshals Service has more extensive resources.

“It just made sense,” he said. “The reason we decided to join hands with the marshals is because, number one, they’re good at it, and, two, because of their extra resources and money. We’ve locked up a lot of our criminals. So far, it’s been a good deal.”

The task force already has made arrests in several major cases, some involving suspects who had been on the run for more than a year.

Jim Werking, a Marshals Service supervisor, agrees that the key is more manpower and resources.

“[D.C. police] did the best job they could,” he said. “They just exhausted their resources. Sometimes, it just takes a fresh perspective or a new set of eyes to look over the case.”

One of the three big captures for the task force was Barry Stringer, the suspected leader of a Southeast drug ring. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued a warrant for Mr. Stringer on Oct. 6, 2002. Task-force members arrested him three days after they received the warrant.

The District again has the highest number of homicides compared with other major U.S. cities, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which tracks national crime trends.

The city had 262 homicides in 2002. As of yesterday, it had 216 for 2003, compared with 235 at the same time in 2002.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said officers are making progress in closing cases. The D.C. average so far this year is 55 percent, compared with the national average of 54 percent for similar-sized cities, he said.

The Marshals Service also transports federal prisoners, protects the federal judiciary and endangered federal witnesses, and manages assets seized from criminal enterprises. Agents also pursue and arrest 55 percent of all federal fugitives.

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