A Boston police officer recently found a fugitive hiding in the third-floor closet of a child’s bedroom. A dozen officers in the Boston police fugitive unit have learned it pays to look in likely and unlikely places, says the Boston Globe. They know fugitives will hide just about anywhere: in clothes dryers, washing machines, attic crawl spaces, and inside fold-out sofas. “You name it, they’ll try to get inside it,” said Officer Eddie Hernandez. Members of the unit are from gang and drug units and are known for their ability to talk to street sources and for keeping their cool. Their mission is to find murder suspects who have evaded capture, witnesses, and fugitives wanted for other serious crimes, such as rapes and shootings.
The department says the unit, which last year captured 215 people on arrest warrants, including 18 murder suspects, is a success. It is part of a trend among law enforcement agencies to rely on special units to track down fugitives. Since 1999, the Massachusetts State Police have doubled their Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section to 29 officers, who last year arrested 2,475 people, including 309 sex offenders. The unit captured 211 fugitives in 1986, the first full year of its operation. Fugitive units usually begin their day at dawn, when suspects are most likely sleeping. Often, the searches come up empty. Suspects on the run get their information about police plans the same way police do: from sources on the street. By the time the fugitive unit arrives, its quarry has often fled. The job can be dangerous. Officers go into houses where armed suspects could be lying in wait, ready to shoot them. Members of fugitive units have access to a world where children, even infants, are surrounded by gun-wielding or drug-addicted adults.