Lawmakers and advocacy groups are calling for new laws and grants to close gaps in a criminal justice system that allow hundreds of thousands of felony fugitives to flee and evade capture, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An investigation by the newspaper found that fugitives sought on felony warrants have been let go by police across the U.S. and have committed more crime, including rape, robbery and murder. “It’s a huge problem,” said U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a former Kansas City prosecutor. “And it’s like a dirty little secret within the criminal justice system that there are so many people who say, ‘If I skate, I’ve got a decent chance of getting away with it.’ And you know what, they do.”
The national fugitive database lacks at least a third of the names of those sought on felonies – allowing fugitives to pass police checks across the country. Even those listed in the database can get drivers licenses or state IDs because few places check for warrants. When fugitives are found, they routinely are not returned to face justice; authorities won’t travel to retrieve them. Says Mary Lou Leary of the National Center for Victims of Crime: “How appalling is it when you are victimized and then find out the reason he is even out on the street is that he was a fugitive and nobody bothered to enter the warrant, nobody bothered to come get him, and he raped somebody three states over?” she said. She and others offered ideas – from mandates to cash – to close the gaps. Drivers with suspended licenses in one state could move to another and get a new license until Congress closed the loophole in 1999. Since then, each state must check a national database of suspended drivers before issuing licenses. They have never had to check the FBI fugitive database – and only six states do. McCaskill said all states should be required to do so.