Review of the United States Marshals Service's
Apprehension of Violent Fugitives
Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2005-008
Office of the Inspector General
As shown in Chart 2, from FY 2001 to FY 2004 the USMS increased the number of violent fugitives apprehended from 14,348 to 21,600, a 51 percent improvement.
We also found that the USMS became more efficient in apprehending violent fugitives. The number of violent fugitives apprehended per staff year increased from 18 violent fugitives in FY 2002 to 21 violent fugitives in FY 2004.17 We examined how the USMS achieved these improvements. We determined that the USMS achieved the increases because the USMS increased the staff time dedicated to fugitive investigations by 21 percent. In addition, the USMS improved its effectiveness at apprehending fugitives by creating 5 RTFs encompassing 15 districts.
Staff Time Dedicated to Fugitive Investigations Increased
From FY 2002 to FY 2004, the USMS increased the amount of time that Deputy Marshals and other personnel devoted to fugitive investigations by 21 percent, from 911 staff years to 1,104 staff years (Chart 3).
Chart 3: Amount of Time Spent on Fugitive Investigations
The additional staff years dedicated to fugitive investigations included the time of both new and existing USMS staff. From FY 2002 to FY 2004, the total number of Deputy Marshals assigned to the districts, the RTFs, and the Electronic Surveillance Unit increased by 13 percent (Table 1).
Table 1: Increases in USMS Personnel, FY 2002 to FY 2004
Some of the increased resources were directed to USMS units that provide support to fugitive investigations. For example, the number of Deputy Marshals and other staff in the Electronic Surveillance Unit, which provides investigative and intelligence support for fugitive investigations, increased by 52 percent (from 31 to 47) from FY 2002 to FY 2004. With the increase in staff, the Electronic Surveillance Unit assisted in 81 percent more fugitive investigations from FY 2001 to FY 2004, which resulted in a 111 percent increase in apprehensions (Chart 4). The unitís personnel also said that the increase in staffing enabled them to give state and local law enforcement personnel greater access to the USMSís electronic surveillance capability. However, the Electronic Surveillance Unit database did not distinguish between federal and state fugitive investigations before October 2004. This has since been corrected.
The increase in personnel also allowed the USMS to generate and respond to a growing number of collateral leads. Collateral leads are district-to-district requests for fugitive investigation assistance that take priority over other USMS fugitive apprehension responsibilities. From FY 2003 to FY 2004, the number of collateral leads received by the districts increased by 61 percent, from 4,372 to 7,028 leads.
Five RTFs Created
We concluded that the establishment of the five RTFs also contributed to the increase in violent apprehensions because they provided a more effective approach to apprehending violent fugitives. The Assistant Director of the Investigative Services Division, the Marshals, and the Deputy Marshals we interviewed stated that the RTFs were the primary reason for the increased number of violent fugitive apprehensions. The effectiveness of the RTF was also cited by representatives from other federal agencies we interviewed, who stated that they often brought their agenciesí fugitive investigations to the RTFs. In RTFs, Deputy Marshals are able to work more closely with state and local law enforcement partners who are familiar with the local jurisdictions and informants in the geographic area covered by the RTF. The Deputy Marshalsí authority to cross district, state, and local boundaries to pursue fugitives also improved the RTF partnersí ability to apprehend violent fugitives.
The state and local task force members we interviewed stated that working with the USMS task forces increased their effectiveness in apprehending violent fugitives. State and local members of RTFs cited several benefits, including:
Our analysis of WIN supports the conclusion that the RTFs were a significant reason for the increase in the number of violent fugitives apprehended. When we compared the number of violent fugitives apprehended in RTF districts to the number apprehended in non-RTF districts, we found that violent fugitive apprehensions increased by 67 percent in the RTF districts, compared to a 45-percent increase in non-RTF districts from FY 2001 to FY 2004 (Chart 5).
We also found that the RTF districts became more efficient over time in apprehending violent fugitives and apprehended more violent fugitives per staff year than non-RTF districts. In the RTF districts, the number of violent fugitives apprehended increased from 17 to 22 violent fugitives per staff year from FY 2002 to FY 2004, while the non-RTF districts apprehended 18 violent fugitives per staff year in FY 2002 and 20 per staff year in FY 2004 (Table 2).
Table 2: Violent Fugitive Apprehensions per Staff Year in RTF and
Despite the increase in violent fugitive apprehensions, the number of violent federal fugitives at large increased. Specifically, from FY 2001 through FY 2004, the number of violent federal fugitives at large increased by 3 percent, to 14,419 fugitives. Several factors beyond the control of the USMS contributed to the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives at large. However, we identified three factors that were within the USMSís control that contributed to the increase. First, not all districts assigned violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces and RTFs; second, the USMS did not fully shift its focus from apprehending all federal fugitives to apprehending violent federal and state fugitives; and third, most districts did not enter data on their state fugitive investigations in WIN when the investigations were opened so that they could focus on apprehending violent fugitives.
Although the USMS increased the number of violent fugitives it apprehended from FY 2001 to FY 2004, the number of violent federal fugitives at large increased by 3 percent during the same period, from 14,046 to 14,419 (Chart 6).
Several factors beyond the control of the USMS contributed to the increase in the number of violent federal fugitives at large.18 We found that the USMS conducted more fugitive investigations on behalf of other federal agencies, including investigations for the ATF and the Department of Homeland Securityís Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. From FY 2001 to FY 2004, the number of fugitive investigations that the USMS conducted for other federal agencies increased by 62 percent, from 3,106 to 5,037. The increasing number of investigations resulted in 39 percent more apprehensions of felony fugitives for other federal agencies, increasing from 4,836 in FY 2001 to 6,712 in FY 2004 (Chart 7).
Some of the Deputy Marshals we spoke with identified other external factors that may have contributed to the increased number of violent federal fugitives at large. Several Deputy Marshals stated that an expansion in the number of investigations that are pursued by United States Attorneysí Offices resulted in more violent federal fugitives sought by the USMS. Two Supervisory Inspectors suggested that the increased number of federal task forces of all types had generated more federal fugitives. Examples of federal task forces cited by the Supervisory Inspectors included the FBIís Violent Crimes Task Forces, the ATFís Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Forces, and the DEAís High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Forces. Another reason for the increased number of violent federal fugitives at large is that the task forces investigated more state fugitives. Since the USMS has the authority to investigate federal and state fugitives anywhere in the United States and outside the country, state and local law enforcement agencies had more incentive to request the USMS task forcesí assistance with their violent fugitives. State and local district task force members whom we interviewed stated that working with the USMS increased their effectiveness in apprehending violent fugitives.
Factors Limiting the Apprehension of Violent Federal Fugitives
Although we recognized that the increased number of federal fugitives was not fully within the USMSís control, we identified three factors within the USMSís control that also contributed to the increase and limited the effectiveness of the USMS in apprehending violent fugitives. The factors were that not all districts assigned violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs and other task forces; the USMS did not ensure that the districts and RTFs focused sufficiently on violent fugitive investigations; and not all districts entered data regarding their state fugitives in WIN when the investigations were opened. By not entering the data, the USMS could not fully assess its progress at apprehending violent fugitives at large.
Not All Districts Assigned Violent Federal Fugitive Investigations to Task Forces
We found that many districts did not assign violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces that operated in their districts. In response to our inquiries, the USMS told us that there were no written USMS guidelines on whether the RTFs, other task forces, or the districtsí warrant squads should investigate violent federal fugitives. In the absence of USMS policy, Marshals can decide how to assign violent federal fugitive investigations in their district. Some Marshals did not assign violent federal fugitive investigations to task forces operating in their districts.
Of the 88 districts that responded to our survey, 77 reported that they had RTFs or other task forces operating in their districts. Of those 77 districts, 21 Ė including 7 RTF districts Ė reported that they assigned 25 percent or less of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces. Overall, 33 of the 77 districts reported that they assigned 50 percent or less of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces (Chart 8).
During our field visits, we interviewed the Marshals and other staff from six of the seven RTF districts that assigned 25 percent or less of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs. We asked them why they did not assign more violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs. Three of the Marshals told us that they did not assign investigations to the RTFs because the districts did not control the RTFs. They believed that the RTF Supervisory Inspectors should be accountable to the Marshals in the districts that they served. Several other USMS personnel stated that a districtís lack of control over an RTF could hurt the districtís reputation and morale. For example, if Deputy Marshals or state and local personnel assigned to the RTF violate USMS policy and procedures, such actions would reflect poorly on the district.19 Headquarters officials told us that while the RTF Supervisory Inspectors report administratively to the USMS headquarters Investigative Services Division, they also report operationally to the affected district Marshals and Chiefs. However, we learned during our interviews in the districts that some Marshals and Chiefs had the perception that the RTF Supervisory Inspectors did not report to them operationally.
Three Marshals in other RTF districts stated that they did not assign violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs because assigning these potentially more complex investigations to the RTFs reduced the opportunity for district Deputy Marshals to develop their investigative skills. One Marshal suggested that all district Deputy Marshals serve a rotation period on an RTF to work on the more complex investigations. Some district Deputy Marshals told the OIG that the assignment of complex violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTF created the perception that they, the district Deputy Marshals, did not have the capability to conduct those investigations. Some Marshals were concerned that this perception could undermine the morale of the district Deputy Marshals.
We found that some of the districts that did not assign their investigations to the task forces were nonetheless assigning their Deputy Marshals to the task forces, thereby reducing the number of Deputy Marshals in the district available to conduct those violent federal fugitive investigations that the district retained. Of the 88 USMS district offices that responded to our survey, 17 districts indicated that the percentage of their Deputy Marshals assigned to a task force was higher than the percentage of their violent federal fugitive investigations assigned to those task forces (Table 3).
Table 3: Comparison of the Assignment of Deputy Marshals and Violent
We asked the Marshals or Chief Deputy Marshals in eight districts that assigned a greater percentage of Deputy Marshals than investigations to task forces why they did so. They stated that they accepted the reduction in the number of Deputy Marshals available to work on their districtsí violent fugitive investigations because they wanted to help ensure the success of the task forces. These Marshals and Chief Deputy Marshals said that they assigned district Deputy Marshals to the task forces even though the USMS did not have a policy requiring them to do so.
Focus Not Fully Shifted to Violent Fugitive Investigations
We found another factor limiting the USMSís effectiveness was that the USMS had not adequately changed its focus to apprehending violent fugitives as directed. The Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 (Act) directed the creation of fugitive apprehension task forces and, subsequent to passage of the Act, congressional conference reports reflected the encouragement to the Department to focus on apprehending violent federal and state fugitives.20 In FY 2001, the Departmentís FY 2001-2006 Strategic Plan changed the focus of the USMS fugitive apprehension program from apprehending all federal fugitives to apprehending violent fugitives, both federal and state.21 One measure of this change in policy was a 40-percent increase in the number of USMS violent fugitive investigations resolved by apprehension of the fugitive or administrative clearance of the warrant from FY 2001 to FY 2004.22 The number of other fugitives (fugitives not known to be violent) apprehended or cleared increased by 29 percent in that same period. In addition, the USMS significantly expanded its efforts to apprehend violent state fugitives and increased the number of violent state fugitives apprehended by 96 percent from 5,667 in FY 2001 to 11,130 in FY 2004.
However, we also found that the change in focus was limited. Overall, the proportion of apprehensions that involved violent fugitives did not change significantly over the 4-year period Ė from 32.3 percent in FY 2001 to 32.6 percent in FY 2004 (Chart 9). That indicated that although resources had expanded, the USMSís efforts had not been effectively refocused from all federal fugitives to violent fugitives. We also found that the USMS had not established any performance goals related to the apprehension of violent federal and state fugitives. Instead, the USMS continued to track and report annually on the number of all federal fugitives apprehended or cleared.
The Marshals and Chief Deputy Marshals that we interviewed stated that the USMS was limited in its ability to more rapidly or completely shift focus. They noted, for example, "due diligence" responsibilities that require the USMS to pursue all fugitives whether or not they are known or suspected to be violent.23 If the USMS does not pursue a fugitive for whom it is responsible, a judge may dismiss the case for lack of a speedy trial when the fugitive is apprehended. We found that the majority of the USMSís fugitive investigations involved fugitives not known to be violent. Of the 176,753 federal fugitives recorded in WIN for FY 2004, only 34,586 (20 percent) were violent federal fugitives. The USMSís responsibility to pursue all fugitives limited its ability to fully shift its fugitive apprehension efforts to focus on violent fugitives.
Another factor that limited the USMSís ability to change its focus was that although the RTFs were established to investigate and apprehend the most violent fugitives, the RTFs did not restrict the state fugitive investigations they accepted to only violent fugitives. We found that 69 percent of the RTF districtsí state fugitive apprehensions in FY 2004 involved fugitives not known to be violent. To maximize the effectiveness of the RTFs, the USMS encourages its state and local task force partners to bring their violent fugitive investigations to the RTFs. Task force supervisors told us that to encourage this participation, the RTFs accepted a wide range of state fugitive investigations considered important by state and local agencies, rather than insisting that the fugitives investigated by the RTF meet the USMSís definition of a violent fugitive. The supervisors also told us that an investigation may involve circumstances that make a fugitive of particular concern, even though the fugitive was not violent. An RTF Supervisory Inspector cited one example of a fugitive wanted for forgery who created and supplied false identification documents to other fugitives.
State Fugitive Investigations Not Entered in WIN
The USMS had no policy requiring that districts enter information regarding state fugitive investigations they accepted in WIN when they opened the investigation. In response to our survey, 52 of 88 districts reported that they did not enter data on their state fugitive investigations into WIN when the investigations were opened. These districts either did not enter state fugitive data in WIN at all, did so after the investigation was closed, or did so only if the investigation required specific USMS assistance. For example, many Deputy Marshals we interviewed stated that they only entered state fugitive information in WIN if they needed Electronic Surveillance Unit assistance or wanted to make the state fugitive a Major Case or Top 15 Most Wanted fugitive. Because the USMS does not record all state fugitive investigations in WIN when the districts open an investigation, it is not able to fully assess its progress at apprehending violent fugitives at large or effectively focus its resources on apprehending violent fugitives.
Impact of the Limiting Factors on USMS Fugitive Apprehension Efforts
The three factors described above collectively limited the USMSís efforts to focus its resources on apprehending violent fugitives. We found that the task forces such as the RTFs were significantly more effective and efficient in apprehending violent fugitives because they enabled the USMS to work more closely with state and local law enforcement personnel. The failure to assign violent federal fugitive investigations to the task forces while continuing to assign district personnel to the task forces meant that there were proportionally fewer resources to conduct the violent federal fugitive investigations in those districts. Consequently, the USMS achieved a much greater increase in its apprehensions of violent state fugitives and a less significant increase in apprehensions of violent federal fugitives. From FY 2001 through FY 2004, violent federal fugitive apprehensions increased by 21 percent, while apprehensions of violent state fugitives increased by 96 percent (Chart 10).
The impact of failing to assign violent federal fugitive investigations to task forces is clearly demonstrated by the differing results achieved by the RTF districts. Because not all USMS district offices assigned their violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTFs, and because some RTFs accepted state investigations of fugitives not considered violent to encourage state participation, apprehensions of violent federal fugitives in some RTF districts actually declined. This was demonstrated by the differing results achieved by the New York/New Jersey and the Great Lakes RTF districts. The New York/New Jersey RTF districts increased only their violent state fugitive apprehensions during the 4-year period under review, while the Great Lakes RTF districts improved their performance in both violent federal and state fugitive apprehensions (Chart 11).
Both the New York/New Jersey and Great Lakes RTF districts increased their apprehensions of violent state fugitives by more than 500 percent. Although the districts that made up the New York/New Jersey RTF sometimes requested the RTFís assistance in fugitive investigations, they did not routinely use the RTF to conduct their violent federal fugitive investigations. In addition, Deputy Marshals assigned to the RTF brought with them their ongoing fugitive investigations (although the fugitives in these investigations were not always classified as violent). As a result, the number of violent federal fugitives apprehended in the New York/New Jersey RTF districts declined by 34 percent from FY 2001 to FY 2004.
In contrast, the districts that made up the Great Lakes RTF assigned most of their violent federal fugitive investigations to the RTF. As a result, the Great Lakes RTF districts achieved a 54-percent increase in apprehensions of violent federal fugitives from FY 2001 to FY 2004. The Marshals in these districts stated that they gave priority to the violent federal warrants of the districts and sent the more serious, complicated warrants to the RTF for investigation.
USMS Has Initiated Action to Better Manage Task Forces
The USMS Investigative Services Division personnel told us that the USMS is aware of the need for standardization and improvement of its task force operations and it is currently working on Standard Operating Procedures to direct task force operations. However, our review of the minutes of the March 2005 USMS Chiefís Investigative Advisory Board meeting indicated that the proposed Standard Operating Procedures do not address how violent federal fugitive investigations will be assigned to the task forces.24 The minutes indicate that the USMS is considering directing the districts to enter violent state fugitives into WIN when an investigation is opened. However, the proposed Standard Operating Procedures allow for certain investigations not meeting the "violent fugitive" criteria to be accepted by the RTFs and the districts, but not entered in WIN until they are closed. If the USMS does not record all state fugitive investigations in WIN when the districts open the investigation, it will not be able to fully assess its progress at apprehending fugitives at large or assess the impact of accepting investigations not classified as violent on the performance of its fugitive apprehension program.
The USMS headquarters staff also is studying ways to improve coordination between the RTFs and the districts they serve, and to balance the number of federal and state fugitive investigations. The participants at the March 2005 Chiefís Investigative Advisory Board meeting suggested the creation of coordinating committees that would include the Marshals and RTF supervisors in RTF districts. These committees would meet quarterly to facilitate coordination between the RTFs and districts and improve communication between the RTF and district supervisors.