On August 11, 1991, the FBI released its Uniform Crime Report [Uniform Crime Reporting
is a law enforcement program providing a nationwide view of crime based on the submission
of crime statistics from law enforcement agencies throughout the country.] with 1990
statistics for crime in the United States. This information indicated that violent crime
had increased 11 percent over 1989 and 22 percent over 1986. The FBI responded by
elevating its Violent Crimes and Major Offenders Program (VCMOP) to a national priority.
In January 1992, the FBI created the Safe Streets Violent Crime initiative within the
VCMOP with the redesignation of 19 existing efforts as Safe Streets task forces.
The initiative allowed Special Agents in Charge of each field office to address street, gang, and drug related violence through the establishment of FBI sponsored task forces. These task forces were to be established in cooperation with state and local law enforcement and could include personnel from other federal law enforcement agencies.
The mission of the Safe Streets initiative is to establish long term, proactive task forces that focus on violent crimes and the apprehension of violent fugitives. The fugitive task forces should target the most violent and hard to locate individuals, only after local authorities have determined the possibility of flight.
A cost analysis, performed by the FBI's Financial Analysis Unit, determined the total
costs associated with this initiative as $112.5 million for FY 1995. This amount is broken
down as follows:
FISCAL YEAR 1995 INITIATIVE COSTS
|Personnel Compensation [Personnel compensation includes the salary and benefits of 671 FBI special agents and support personnel.]||$100,868,791|
|Operating Expenses [Operating expenses included rent, travel, utilities, supplies, rental of vehicles and pagers, and other miscellaneous services.]||8,508,893|
|Overtime for State and Local Officers||3,155,496|
The FBI Headquarters Safe Streets Unit, in concert with field personnel, is responsible for planning the efficient use of resources to combat a regional and/or national crime problem. At the time of the audit, the unit consisted of 10 individuals [The 10 individuals consisted of 4 supervisory special agents, 5 program personnel, and 1 support staff.] responsible for the administrative oversight of the task forces. This includes formulating and implementing guidance for field personnel as well as monitoring task force budgets, expenses, and overtime. As part of their responsibilities, unit managers also review statistical and other accomplishment reports. The FBI reported the task forces arrested 17,622 persons and located [A federal locate is counted when the FBI determines the exact location of a fugitive, but the individual is not arrested by the FBI. Instead, the subject may be arrested by another law enforcement agency, already be incarcerated, or deceased.] 2,280 wanted individuals in FY 1996.
At the beginning of our audit, there were 141 task forces consisting of 32 fugitive
task forces, 32 violent crime/fugitive task forces, 67 violent crime task forces, and 10
interstate theft/major offenders task forces. This audit covers the 64 task forces that
focus completely, or in part, on fugitive apprehension.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
I. IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED TO INCREASE THE EFFICIENCY AND
EFFECTIVENESS OF TASK FORCE OPERATIONS
Overall, the task force concept has been successful in fostering cooperation and communication between federal, state, and local participants. Nonetheless, the FBI could put about $3.7 million to better use by: (1) refocussing or redirecting the efforts of specific task forces exhibiting operational deficiencies, (2) assessing the nationwide universe of outstanding violent crime warrants to target areas with the greatest need, and (3) measuring the effect of existing task forces.
We evaluated task force operations to identify areas where the FBI could improve the management of its Safe Streets fugitive task forces. Specifically, we reviewed 20 task forces to measure effectiveness and adherence to operational guidelines. These reviews consisted of identifying operational weaknesses and assessing the possibility of duplication of effort. In addition, to gauge the efficiency of task force resource utilization, we determined the nationwide active warrant universe and compared it to where task forces were located. A detailed discussion of our results in each of these areas follows.
The Safe Streets initiative has evolved through an initial growth period to a phase
where task force resources are stabilizing and should be closely monitored. Our review of
20 fugitive task forces disclosed 7, accounting for $3,680,783 [We
calculated this amount using overall 1995 FBI internal cost data to estimate the costs
associated with specific task forces.] during FY 1995, that have reached fruition or had
operational deficiencies resulting in the inefficient or ineffective use of task force
resources. We identified four conditions that necessitate the redirection of resources or
reorganization of these task forces: (1) declining impact, (2) non-FBI managed task
forces, (3) declining local participation, and (4) inappropriate task force cases.
Declining Impact - None of the 20 fugitive task forces reviewed was measuring its effect on the universe of outstanding violent crime warrants. Instead, the FBI only compared statistical information, such as the number of arrests and locates, between specific periods. However, FBI management did not recognize that two task forces had little activity and should be refocussed.
The number of fugitives arrested by the task force in Charlotte, North Carolina had declined significantly. During the first 3 quarters of FY 1996, the task force made only 58 arrests, compared to 133 arrests made during the first 3 quarters of FY 1995. Also, as shown on the map on page 9, the county in which Charlotte is located had fewer than 100 active warrants registered in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), illustrating little need for a task force targeting fugitives.
The task force in Mobile, Alabama generated few arrests and locates. Between October 1992 and August 1996, the task force made only 234 arrests and located only 46 fugitives.
Task Forces Not Managed by the FBI - The fugitive task forces are to be cooperative efforts led and directed by FBI supervisors. In a June 15, 1994 memorandum, the FBI Director stated that strong FBI leadership is required for a task force to be recognized as part of the Safe Streets initiative. FBI supervisors must monitor task force activities and targets, and ensure task force members adhere to FBI policies. Our audit revealed that two task forces were not under the direct management of FBI supervisors.
The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) was responsible for the operation of and had the final decision on operational issues of the El Paso, Texas task force.
At the Kansas City, Missouri task force, FBI special agents and other members were physically located at the participating police departments. These agencies were assigning fugitive cases and were monitoring the daily activities of the task force. In addition, the FBI supervisor was not located with any part of the team and devoted only 20 percent of his time to the task force. Subsequent to our review, the FBI co-located the task force into FBI space under the direct supervision of a supervisory special agent.
Local Participation Declining - The task force concept is predicated on extensive cooperation and coordination among members. While this initiative requires FBI management, it is critical that other members be willing to support the efforts of the task force and contribute personnel, resources, and expertise. However, state and local participation was very limited at two of the task forces reviewed.
Local participation on the task force in Sacramento, California had significantly diminished resulting in a group made up of eight FBI special agents and one local officer. In addition, the Sacramento Police Department had established a similar task force that actively pursued violent career criminals. Based on our review and subsequent discussions with FBI management, this task force was closed, effective October 1, 1996.
The Puerto Rico Police Department was not readily providing warrants to the San Juan, Puerto Rico task force. According to a Divisional Inspection in August 1996, there were about 2,400 outstanding warrants that could meet fugitive task force criteria. The report further stated that the task force claimed only 133 fugitive arrests since its inception on January 1, 1995, as a result of limited access to local warrants. According to task force personnel, this occurred because the local police department was reluctant to turn over cases even when the possibility of flight was apparent.
Inappropriate Task Force Cases - The types of fugitives pursued by the task forces must be consistent with the terms of the individual task force agreements and FBI guidelines. However, the audit disclosed that the Tampa, Florida task force was not adhering to the spirit or the letter of these instructions.
The FBI stated in a memorandum to all Special Agents in Charge that they must avoid compromising the task force objectives by becoming warrant squads for the state and local law enforcement agencies. In a later memorandum, dated August 26, 1996, the Headquarters Safe Streets Unit stipulated that local authorities must attempt to contact and execute the warrant on a wanted individual before the task force opens a case. Nevertheless, at Tampa, Florida, task force members worked fugitive cases before local authorities determined the possibility of flight. In our judgment, this is not only basic police work, but it is also an integral part of determining whether the possibility of flight exists. As such, we believe the task force was acting as a local warrant squad.
FBI management could put about $3.7 million to better use and enhance task force operations by redirecting or reorganizing the resources allocated to the aforementioned seven task forces with operational deficiencies.
In Houston, Texas two distinct task forces targeting the same types of violent fugitives existed. This situation required constant monitoring and coordination to ensure the work was properly assigned and not duplicated. The FBI-led task force, composed of six special agents and seven state and local members from four participating agencies, had been in existence since 1992. The other task force, the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force, had been in existence since 1993. This task force had over 30 members from 7 state and local agencies working along with the USMS. In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms participated on an "as needed" basis. The Gulf Coast Task Force was established, in part, through a grant from the Office of Justice Programs.
Task force statistics indicated that the FBI group arrested or located 1,299 violent state and local fugitives between May 1992 and July 1996. The Gulf Coast Task Force reported 4,250 arrests and locates from October 1993 through June 1996. The types of offenses targeted by the Gulf Coast Task Force included: murder, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, drugs, and other felonies. Based on our review of a sample of cases worked by the FBI task force, the cases involved narcotics, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, and attempted murder. Clearly, the targeting of both task forces is similar and could result in overlapping investigations without careful coordination.
According to the FBI and Harris County, Texas Sheriff's Office officials, duplication of effort is avoided through the Sheriff's computerized tracking system. This system keeps track of the agent or officer assigned to each warrant; thus, duplication of effort was avoided by accessing the warrant to determine who was working it. The Sheriff's Office also tried to divert the violent fugitive warrants to the FBI task force when the possibility of flight existed.
As early as 1994, FBI and USMS management held meetings to explore an integration of effort between the two task forces. In a May 1995 report, [GAO Report Number GAO/GGD-95-75 "Federal Fugitive Apprehension"] the GAO noted the existence of these two separate efforts. Both FBI and USMS officials informed the GAO that they would discontinue operating independent, redundant fugitive task forces in the same geographic area. In addition, the agencies instructed their respective field offices to work toward consolidating these efforts. To date, these efforts have not been combined. A local FBI official stated that each task force had its own mission and the Gulf Coast Task Force was operating as a warrant squad, arresting primarily local fugitives.
The FBI also stated its agents could not participate on the Gulf Coast Violent
Offenders Task Force because their authority to pursue state and local fugitives requires
not only the possibility of flight but also the use of the preliminary inquiry [The
preliminary inquiry process allows FBI task forces to pursue a state or local fugitive
when the possibility has been established that the subject may have fled to avoid
prosecution or confinement. See Finding II for more information about the process.]
process. According to the FBI, if the two task force efforts were combined, its special
agents could only pursue a small portion of the fugitives targeted by the other task
force. However, the FBI's most recent position is that the fugitive problem in the Houston
area is significant enough to justify the existence of both groups.
In our judgment, while sufficient controls may be currently in place to thwart duplication of effort, the existence of two DOJ funded task forces pursuing similar targets is not the best use of the Department's resources.
Mapping Suggests Task Forces Not in Areas of Greatest Need
As part of our audit, we collected and analyzed NCIC data on persons wanted for violent crimes [Violent crimes were defined by NCIC as homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, assault, arson, extortion, burglary, dangerous drugs, sex offenses, flight/escape, and weapon offenses.] in the United States. Further, we used mapping software to determine if the FBI could use that information to help position task forces. The NCIC database exists, in part, as a common medium for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to identify individuals wanted for crimes occurring in their jurisdictions. By entering warrant information into the NCIC system, the agencies have a better chance of an individual being apprehended.
The warrants included in the NCIC database comprised the potential universe of wanted persons to be targeted by the FBI Safe Streets fugitive task forces. We used the information contained in the NCIC system to identify the universe of outstanding violent crime warrants by geographic location. This powerful tool provides insight into the magnitude of the national fugitive problem and could be used by the FBI Headquarters Safe Streets Unit in allocating program resources. However, an analysis of the warrant universe alone does not take into account the severity of the warrants, the violent tendencies of the wanted individuals, the existence of other law enforcement efforts, nor the attitude of the local community toward establishment of a task force. Therefore, any decisions made using this type of analysis should also address the aforementioned issues.
To quantify the universe of warrants for violent crimes in the United States, we
obtained data from the NCIC as of September 25, 1996. We broke down the universe by county
for the entire country. The data consisted of 133,632 records, but our analysis only
included 132,450, because 1,182 records originated outside of the United States or the
county of origin could not be determined. Once we determined the warrant total for each
county, the data were placed on a map of the United States, along with the locations of
the 62 [Between April and September 1996, the number of task forces targeting fugitives
had decreased from 64 to 62. However, only 61 task forces are displayed on the map, as the
San Juan, Puerto Rico Police Department does not routinely enter warrants into NCIC.] task
forces in existence as of the date of the NCIC data.
The presentation of the warrant universe on a map aids in visualizing the overall condition regarding outstanding fugitives. The FBI task forces targeting fugitives were designated with the city and a green symbol on the map. Each county was shaded according to the number of active warrants on file for that county, based on specified ranges. The map was designed so that areas with large numbers of active warrants were shaded with the darkest colors. [The county in which New York City is located had 28,684 warrants, the highest number of warrants. By comparison, the second highest county, Los Angeles, had a total of 5,319 warrants.]
Generally, we found that the FBI targeted its fugitive task force efforts in areas with high warrant activity. However, there were locations with a significant number of outstanding warrants that did not have a Safe Streets task force. Conversely, task forces existed in areas with small universes of outstanding warrants. The following map illustrates the distribution of the universe of active warrants. In addition, detailed maps of smaller regions are contained in Appendix II.
By examining the map, the reader can compare the placement of task forces with the
number of active fugitive warrants in a specific area. As illustrated, some locations
require further analysis. Specifically:
Savannah, Georgia; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina; and Canton, Columbus, and Toledo, Ohio had less than 100 active warrants for the county in which the cities are located. Each of these locations had a Safe Streets task force targeting violent fugitives.
Locations such as Atlanta, Georgia; Albany, New York; Salt Lake City, Utah; and others appeared to have a significant number of active warrants. However, no Safe Streets fugitive task forces were located in these cities.
In our judgment, the FBI should collect and analyze NCIC data, on a regular basis, as a tool for improving its use of task force resources. To that end, we will provide the FBI with our computation of the universe of active warrants summarized by county. The FBI can use this information, coupled with periodic updates from NCIC, to enhance operational decision making.
The Safe Streets initiative has matured to a point where the FBI should frequently evaluate the need for continuing specific task forces and periodically evaluate their operational achievements and processes. To best utilize staff resources and funds, reassessing the use of resources should become a high priority for FBI management.
We recommend that the Director, FBI:
1. Redirect or reallocate the $3.7 million associated with the seven task forces with operational deficiencies.
2. Direct the Special Agent In Charge of the Houston Field Office to pursue a means of combining the efforts of the two task forces.
3. Periodically assess the national universe of active violent crime warrants to target areas with greatest need.
4. Measure each task force's impact by periodically comparing its arrests and locates to the universe of violent crime warrants and reconfigure task force locations based on need.
5. Follow-up on the task forces with low warrant universes and the locations without task forces that exhibited high warrant universes, and reallocate resources if necessary.