Across the U.S., police and prosecutors allow tens of thousands of wanted felons — including more than 3,300 people accused of sexual assaults, robberies and homicides — to escape justice merely by crossing a state border, says USA Today. Those decisions, almost always made in secret, leave fugitives’ crimes unpunished, their victims outraged and the public at risk. Each fugitive’s case is listed in a confidential FBI database police use to track outstanding warrants. In 186,873 cases, police indicated that they would not spend the time or money to retrieve the fugitive from another state, a process known as extradition. That’s true even if the fugitives are just across a bridge in the state next door. Another 78,878 accused felons won’t be extradited from anyplace but neighboring states.
Philadelphia, Atlanta and Little Rock — all among the nation’s highest-crime cities — told the FBI they wouldn’t pursue 90 percent or more of their felony suspects into other states. Los Angeles police said they would not extradite 77 people for murder or attempted murder, 141 for robbery and 84 for sexual assault. Among people authorities would not pursue: a man accused in Collier County, Fl., of hacking his roommate’s neck with a machete during a fight over two cans of beer; a man charged with drawing a gun on a Newport News, Va., store manager during a robbery, and a man Pittsburgh identified as among its “most wanted” fugitives. Such fugitives should be among the easiest targets in the nation’s fragmented justice system. Police typically don’t hunt them; instead, they wait for officers to come across them again, during traffic stops or when they’re arrested on new charges.