In state after state, year after year, fugitives have been let go by police, only to victimize more people, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Between crimes, fugitives have used their real identities to get new drivers licenses in new states. Some register with police as sex offenders and still avoided arrest. The Post-Dispatch reviewed government records, analyzed dozens of computer databases and interviewed hundreds of people. Among findings: More than a third of all felony warrants are not entered into a national database routinely checked by police nationwide; few fugitives are hunted, and most states don’t even screen for criminal warrants before handing out licenses; when fugitives are found in other states, authorities routinely refuse to pick them up – including some wanted for violent crimes. In St. Louis and a handful of other metro areas, authorities don’t even issue warrants for thousands of fugitives.
The lapses mean hundreds of thousands of felony fugitives can run – and they don’t need to hide. “What a message, huh?” said Lt. Jeff Silva of New Bedford, Ma. “Commit a crime and just leave the state, and good luck. Unless it’s salacious enough to get on (America’s Most Wanted), you’re good.” It ‘s impossible to determine the extent of the problem because laws and policies keep secret much of the information on those sought on arrest warrants. An FBI advisory panel is so concerned about warrants missing from a national database that it convened a task force last year to study the problem.When the FBI last looked at the issue in 1997, the agency estimated there were 2.7 million felony warrants nationwide. Based on that estimate, the current rate of missing warrants could be as high as 60 percent.” We know there’s a gap. But we don’t know how big it is,” said task force chairman Michael McDonald, of the Delaware State Police.