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Report: Thousands of felons on the lam - Many Ohio criminals aren’t pursued; issues include lean budgets, jail space
by Chad D. Baus
The Dayton Daily News reported recently that there are tens of thousands of wanted Ohio felons on the loose, and that not many of them are being actively sought.
From the article:
After six years on the loose, James Scott Jr. was arrested during a random traffic stop – the way many of those wanted on felony warrants are picked up, if they are apprehended at all.
"There's just too many," said Pat Sedoti, U.S. Marshal in charge of three Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Teams. "You have to pick the ones you want to go after."
No one knows exactly how many wanted felons are on the loose, and no one is actively pursuing many of them.
Last week, authorities said more than 1 million warrants were listed in the National Crime Information Center database. There are 35,181 in Ohio's counterpart, the Law Enforcement Automated Data System. The most serious of Ohio's warrants are to be included in the federal database but it’s unclear exactly how many are in both systems.
According to the article, the newspaper spent the past two months gathering data and talked with experts and authorities at the local, state and national level about the issues and problems that keep them from bringing more fugitives to justice.
Again, from the article:
The numbers outstanding in area sheriff's offices ranged from 10,309 in Montgomery County to 51 in Champaign County. This doesn't reflect those maintained by local police departments stemming from cases within their jurisdiction, authorities said.
High-profile cases, such as murders, lead to intensive law enforcement searches. So can a good tip.
But there are hundreds of thousands of people wanted on warrants who couldn't be found after charges were filed, who skipped bond while awaiting trial or who have violated the conditions of probation or parole. Many are accused or convicted of serious crimes like sexual assault, drug trafficking or felonious assault — even murder.
Scott, 46, of Dayton, was wanted for trafficking in crack cocaine for six years. He was featured on the America’s Most Wanted TV show and identified as a SOFAST target. Still he remained at large until March 24, when he was pulled over by a Dayton police officer. He struggled with the officer, then gave in after the officer used a Taser on him.
"That hurts. I'm done," Scott reportedly said.
According to the article, law enforcement officials looking for felons on the loose say they are hindered by inconsistencies in how felony warrants are tracked, budgetary limitations, competing priorities and sometimes a lack of jail space. Suspects may be continuing to engage in illegal behavior and can pose dangers to the officers who happen upon them.
Greene County Prosecutor Stephen K. Haller said in the 1990s that money was less of a factor when balancing justice and budget in chasing felony warrants.
"It used to be we'd just say, 'Yes, go get them.' But we have to analyze every one of these now because of the budget," said Haller, who estimated there were about 160 outstanding felony warrants in Greene County. "I can remember the day that it didn't make a damn bit of difference, we were going to go get them no matter where it was. But things have changed."
Officials also point to the time consumed with the LEADS system and bringing in wanted felons. But most daunting is the unmanageable numbers of warrants issued by local, state and federal courts. "I have cabinet drawers full of warrants.” said Debbie Garman, warrants clerk in Clark County.
The extensive article ends by noting that federal officials were unaware of research or initiatives aimed at developing methods or overcoming problems preventing authorities from catching more of those sought on outstanding felony warrants.
"They all say the same thing. It's chaos. They're overwhelmed," [David] Kennedy, [director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York] said. "It undercuts the power and the standing of the criminal justice system."
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.