Police and prosecutors have told the FBI they had abandoned pursuit of 79,000 accused felons in the past 18 months, USA Today reports. They have given up chasing people charged with armed robbery and raping children, usually without informing their victims. Police in one California county reported they would no longer pursue three of their most-wanted fugitives and a man charged with a murder for which prosecutors have sought the death penalty. The authorities had previously told the FBI, which maintains an index of the nation’s fugitives, that they would arrest each suspect if police anywhere else in the U.S. found them, a process known as extradition.
In each case, police and prosecutors have since indicated they will no longer fetch fugitives if they flee. “That shocks me. I can’t imagine why anybody would take a major felony and say we’ll only arrest him within the state,” said prosecutor Joshua Marquis of Astoria, Or., a former vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. “I cannot imagine a case of sexual abuse or rape or murder where I would not go to the ends of the earth to get that person back.” USA Today previously identified thousands of fugitives who police said they would not pursue if they fled the state, usually because they did not want to spend the time or money needed to get them back. The decisions, typically made in secret, allowed old crimes to go unpunished and offered fugitives a virtual license to commit new ones, often as close as in the state next door.