The Office of the Inspector General, Inspections Division, has completed an inspection of the United States Marshals Service (USMS) fugitive apprehension program.


The objective of the inspection was to assess the USMS fugitive apprehension program and identify potential areas for improvement.


The inspection was conducted at the USMS Headquarters and at six district offices. We visited four of the top six fugitive apprehension USMS district offices - the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn), the Southern District of California (San Diego), and the Central District of California (Los Angeles). We also visited two smaller district offices -the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria) and the District of Maryland (Baltimore). The six offices we visited were responsible for 31 percent of the fugitive warrants open at the start of FY 1993.

During our field work, we interviewed 81 individuals (some on multiple occasions). Our interviewees included district office personnel as well as officials of the USMS Enforcement Division, the Information Technology Division, the Management and Planning Division, the Program Review Division, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).

We met with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to better understand how fugitive apprehension operations at these agencies relate to USMS fugitive apprehension activities.

We reviewed and analyzed Warrant Information Network (WIN) data,1 biweekly time distribution reports, workload statistics, and numerous related documents to assess USMS performance. We focused exclusively on the USMS' responsibility regarding Class I felony violations, which are violations of law treated with the highest priority.

The WIN warrant data we reviewed was from the time period April 1, 1993, to March 31, 1994. We obtained basic information on all USMS Class I warrants that were open and on hand as of April 1, 1993; all Class I warrants that were received by the USMS from April 1, 1993, through March 31, 1994; and all warrants that were closed during the same time period. We found that there were 19,399 warrants on hand as of April 1, 1993; 18,307 new warrants were received by the USMS during the following 12 months; and 17,779 warrants were closed during that time period.

We did not evaluate the USMS' efforts to execute misdemeanor and traffic warrants. However, we made general inquiries about them at each district office we visited because they make up a substantial part of the USMS warrant workload. USMS representatives told us they simply do not have the time to pursue these warrants actively. They are typically kept on file after an initial 'Notice of Arrest' letter is sent to a subject and, in some locations, they are occasionally used for training purposes for deputies newly assigned to work warrants. USMS officials, both at headquarters and in the field, told us that although these warrants are the administrative responsibility of the USMS, little or no effort is made to apprehend the subjects of these warrants.


The USMS is administratively responsible for all Federal warrants, meaning it acts as a repository for all warrants issued by United States District Courts. It has investigative and apprehension responsibility, according to statute, for the following felony offenses: bond defaults, probation violations, parole violations, and escapes. The USMS also enforces warrants from agencies without arrest powers, bench warrants issued by Federal judges, and DEA-referred warrants.

The Enforcement Division at USMS Headquarters is responsible for administering the national fugitive apprehension program. The division oversees and supports personnel in the execution of fugitive apprehension investigations and in case and warrant management, but it has limited direct control over how resources are used in the 94 USMS district offices.2

At the operational level, the execution of warrants and apprehension of fugitives are conducted by Deputy United States Marshals in each of the 94 districts. However, the organizational structure under which these activities are performed varies from district to district Some offices have permanent warrant squads with permanently assigned warrant squad deputies. Other offices have no warrant squads, but general operations deputies perform some fugitive apprehension work in addition to other duties. Other offices have a combination of the two structures, with a permanent warrant squad and deputies who rotate on and off the squad from other district assignments.

Warrants can be closed through a number of methods. Many warrants are closed through physical arrests where the USMS is the lead agency in the arrest and USMS deputies apprehend the subject. Closures also are accomplished through directed arrests, lodging detainees, surrenders, arrests by other agencies, dismissals, or the return of warrants to the originating agency.3





As of April 1, 1993, the USMS had 19,399 felony warrants on hand to be executed. Most of these were older warrants. Almost 75 Percent were more than I year old, and about 37 percent were more than 5 years old. Only 20 percent of warrants over 1 year old were closed during the next 12 months. Of the warrants that were closed, most were newer warrants. Physical arrests by the USMS accounted for almost half of all warrant closures. DEA continues to work and close its own warrants, even those it refers to the USMS. Between FYs 1991 and 1993, the total number of warrants on hand at the USMS has increased steadily while the number of warrants received annually remained fairly constant.

Most Warrants Over Twelve
Months Old Are Not Being Closed

As of April 1, 1993, the USMS had responsibility for 19,399 warrants. These warrants had been issued prior to that date, and had not been closed. Of these warrants, 14,444 warrants, or 75 percent, were at least 12 months old, and 7,111 warrants, or about 37 percent, were more than 5 years old (see Figure 1).

Figure 1


Our analysis indicates that most of the warrants on hand as of April 1, 1993, were classified as bond defaults, parole violations, probation violations, and DEA referrals.4 These four categories of Class I warrants accounted for approximately 86 percent of all the warrants on hand.

The remainder consisted of Class I warrants for escapes, agencies without power of arrest, and "other" (see Figure 2).


Figure 2

Further analysis of the 19,399 warrants on hand as of April 1, 1993, established that 3,776 warrants (approximately 20 percent) were closed during the following 12 months. The types of warrants that were closed during these 12 months were proportionately similar to the types received during the period. Bond defaults, parole violations, probation violations, and DEA referrals comprised the major four categories of closures. More than 80 percent of the warrants on hand as of April 1, 1993, remained open as of March 31, 1994 (see Figure 3).


Figure 3

The USMS, in a report entitled, Enforcement Division, Year in Review (FY 1993), expressed concern over "an increasing backlog of warrants." Between FYs 1991 and 1993, the number of warrants on hand at the end of each year increased on average by 8 percent per year. The total number of warrants on hand at the end of 1991 was 16,757. At the end of 1992 and 1993, there were 17,920 and 19,545 warrants on hand, respectively.


Most Warrants Closed Are Newer Warrants
And Are Closed Through Physical Arrest

During the period April 1, 1993, through March 31, 1994, a total of 17,779 warrants were closed.5 Of the warrants closed, 15,679 (over 88 percent) were less than 12 months old at the time they were closed; 733 warrants (approximately 4 percent) were 1 to under 2 years old; 743 warrants (approximately 4 percent) were 2 to under 5 years old; 392 (approximately 2 percent) were 5 to under 10 years old; and 232 (approximately 1 percent) of the closed warrants were over 10 years old (see Figure 4).


Figure 4


The USMS was responsible for closing 8,551 warrants, or 48 percent of the 17,779 warrants closed, through physical arrests. The remaining closures were accomplished primarily through directed arrests, surrenders, arrests by other agencies, detainees, and dismissals.

Of the 8,551 warrants closed through physical arrests, 6,180 warrants, or 72 percent, were warrants for bond default, and for probation and parole violations. USMS personnel suggested that bond default warrants, and probation and parole violation warrants, are often closed first because they are easier to execute for two reasons. First, probation and parole officials often have the up-to-date information on the subject. Second, these categories of fugitives may not even know a warrant has been issued and therefore are not as likely to be actively evading capture.

We found that the USMS is closing most new felony warrants. However, it appears that if a warrant is not closed within 12 months, the warrant is likely to remain open indefinitely. USMS officials we interviewed suggested that warrants may remain open for a number of reasons, including: (1) a lack of information on some fugitives, especially when fugitives who are foreign nationals are not believed to be in the United States, and (2) the inability in some districts, given competing workloads, to consistently dedicate adequate resources to fugitive apprehension.


DEA Closes Almost Half the Cases It
Refers to the USMS

The USMS has specifically defined responsibilities for DEA-referred cases. According to the Attorney General's 1988 Policy on Fugitive Apprehension in FBI and DEA Cases, the FBI and DEA "shall have apprehension responsibility on all arrest warrants resulting from their own investigations." However, the policy also states that DEA may delegate apprehension and administrative responsibility to the USMS whenever the subject of a DEA arrest warrant is not apprehended within 7 days after issuance of the arrest warrant. DEA-referred warrants make up about 28 percent of the USMS warrant caseload. USMS physical arrests accounted for 25 percent of the DEA-referred warrants closed in 1993 -1994 (see Figure 5). Arrests on DEA-referred warrants by "other agencies" accounted for nearly 47 percent of all closures.


Figure 5


By Type of Apprehension


USMS representatives told us that their search of the WIN database for a sample 12-month period revealed the "other agency" closing 90 percent of DEA referred cases was, in fact, DEA. We were told that while the USMS has administrative responsibility for all cases and apprehension responsibility for certain felony offenses, an originating law enforcement agency may retain cases for investigative purposes.

DEA representatives told us that while they retain a number of cases exclusively for themselves, DEA agents are also responsible for continuing fugitive apprehension efforts even if a case has been referred to the USMS. DEA officials told us that cases DEA retains are usually complex cases; i.e., where a number of subjects are involved in continuing criminal enterprises or the subjects are likely to become witnesses against other subjects in the same case.

During our field work and numerous interviews with USMS deputies, we were told that DEA-referred cases often come to the USMS with limited 'information and that in some cases the fugitive in question is out of the country.

Officials at DEA Headquarters' Special Investigative Support Section acknowledged it is possible, especially in cases involving numerous subjects, that limited information may be available to DEA, and thus to the USMS. The officials told us there is a fugitive liaison or coordinator for each DEA field division. The coordinators work with the USMS district offices and provide them with available investigative information on the DEA cases referred to the USMS for fugitive apprehension.

Asked about having cases administratively closed due to the lack of information, DEA officials said it was unlikely that any of the cases with limited information would be administratively closed because there is always the possibility that new or additional information will surface. Similarly, having such warrants dismissed is unlikely, the DEA representatives said, because the United States Attorneys who would be involved in dismissing such warrants are often not willing to do so.


Little Change Occurs in the Number of
New Warrants Received Annually

During FYs 1991, 1992, and 1993, the number of new warrants received by the USMS did not change substantially. The number of warrants received in 1991 was 18,208. The USMS received 20,825 warrants in 1992, and 19,610 warrants in 1993 (see Figure 6).


Figure 6



However, some officials in USMS field offices suggested that additional resources may be needed to pursue fugitives because of the workload growth or the increase in resources of entities whose missions are directly related to the USMS. These include Federal courts, United States Attorneys Offices, Parole and Probation Offices, and other law enforcement agencies such as DEA and the FBI.

Our research indicates that most of the related workload USMS officials referred to has not grown substantially, and in some cases related workloads have actually decreased. For instance, the National Judicial Workload Profile for the United States District Courts reflects a slight decline in District Court workload statistics from 1992 to 1993. The United States Parole Commission's (Commission) workload statistics show a decline of more than 20 percent between 1992 and 1993. The Commission is scheduled to cease operations in 1997, and a representative there told us their workload continues to decline as they move toward discontinuance of parole services. The USMS Prisoner Operations Division provided statistics showing the number of prisoners given in custody to the USMS for court purposes was 95,806 in 1992 and 94,373 in 1993.



Fugitive apprehension activities make up only a small portion of the USMS workload. During FY 1993 and the first 8 months of FY 1994, fugitive apprehension activities accounted for less than 15 percent of total time charges in the USMS. Budget documents indicate that the fugitive apprehension program has been allocated almost 600 positions in recent years (out of more than 3,606 total USMS positions). Time charges to fugitive apprehension activities have been in line with these allocations. However our analysis of time charges suggests that much of the time charged to fugitive apprehension is charged by deputies and other personnel not dedicated to working warrants full time. A March 1993 survey by the USMS Enforcement Division Identified only 250 positions In the field dedicated to fugitive apprehension. Officials with whom we spoke at Headquarters and in the field believe that if they could dedicate more deputies to working warrants, they would be able to conduct fugitive apprehension duties more effectively.

Fugitive Apprehension Activities Account
for Only a Small Portion of USMS

Fugitive apprehension activities make up only a small portion of the total USMS workload. The USMS Management and Planning Division provided us with overall statistics concerning time charges for fugitive apprehension, judicial security, prisoner movement, etc. This information is captured on time distribution forms and compiled in an automated USMS system. Our review of the time distribution data shows that overall, for the USMS in FY 1993, 14.5 percent of total time charges was for fugitive apprehension. In FY 1994 (through May), 13.8 percent of all time charges was for fugitive apprehension (see Figures 7 and 8).


Figure 7


Figure 8


Although we consider these figures to be estimates - time distribution records by definition are estimates by employees - they still show the relatively small percentage of total time dedicated to fugitive apprehension. Judicial security and prisoner security together accounted for approximately 40 percent of total time charges in FY 1993 and the first 8 months of FY 1994. Other USMS activities including service of process, seized assets management, financial support, and Headquarters coordination of special assignments and details) account for the remainder of time charges.

Not All Resources Allocated to Fugitive
Apprehension Are Dedicated to Working
Warrants in the Field

USMS Enforcement Division officials told us that although the fugitive apprehension program is officially authorized 604 permanent positions,6 they do not have full-time access to all of those positions for the purpose of meeting program responsibilities. They believe that this is primarily because the Deputy United States Marshals in these positions are often called upon to perform other duties, usually court security or prisoner movement.

Our attempts to independently determine the exact number of deputies normally assigned to warrant (fugitive apprehension) work were unsuccessful as this specific information is not maintained by the USMS.

At the district offices we visited, individual time distribution records of warrant squad deputies showed that even deputies assigned to warrant squads are spending time in court and moving prisoners. The time spent on non-warrant related duties, including court security and prisoner movement, did not exceed 35 percent for any of the district offices we visited (see Appendix 1).

A Management and Planning Division representative told us that time charged to fugitive apprehension can potentially be charged by anyone assigned to a USMS district office. There appears to be no way to determine, for instance, how many warrant squad deputies charged time to fugitive apprehension compared to how many general operations deputies charged time to fugitive apprehension. Our review of time distribution data showed that total time charged to fugitive apprehension in FY 1993 (898,851 workhours) accounted for 2,431 district office personnel (1,504 of whom were criminal investigators). Through May of FY 1994 (550,510 workhours), 2,109 district office personnel (1,407 of whom were criminal investigators) accounted for total time charges.

In an effort to identify the number of USMS personnel dedicated to performing warrant work in the field, the Enforcement Division conducted an informal phone survey in March 1993. Enforcement Division staff contacted each of the USMS district offices and asked each if a permanently assigned warrant squad existed and if so, how many warrant squad positions had been established. At the 95 district locations polled, 46 had warrant squads with a total of 250 warrant squad positions filled. An Enforcement Division official told us the number of warrant squads and warrant squad positions was the same in May 1994 as it was in March 1993.

During many of our interviews with warrant squad and general operations deputies in medium and large districts, we were told that deputies are frequently not given sufficient time to work the warrant cases they are assigned. Deputies told us that there is only so much investigative work that can be done on computers and on the phone, and that they must have sufficient time in the field to effectively track many fugitives. When deputies working warrants are required to provide court security or bring prisoners to court, the time available to investigate decreases.

In some districts, prisoners may be housed in a number of different locations, which requires substantial travel time for USMS personnel between jail facilities and court. This curtails fugitive apprehension work.

USMS personnel believe that if they could dedicate allocated resources to warrant work they could more effectively conduct fugitive apprehension duties, especially in districts with large fugitive workloads.


1 The WIN system contains information on all warrants for which USMS has responsibility, including information on the status of the warrant and information about each warrant subject. We did not independently test the validity or accuracy of the WIN data.

2 Following the completion of field work on this inspection, we learned that a draft reorganization plan for the USMS had been submitted to the Department and then to the Office of Management and Budget. Implementation of the plan, if approved, may affect the structure of the Enforcement Division, and thus the fugitive apprehension program.

3 A directed arrest occurs when a USMS investigation provides enough information to allow another law enforcement agency to make an arrest in a location that is not easily accessible to USMS personnel. When a fugitive is apprehended by a law enforcement agency other than the USMS, a detainer is lodged so that the fugitive can be subsequently released into the custody of the USMS. A case is categorized as a surrender when a fugitive turns himself or herself in to the USMS or other authorities. Arrests by other agencies refer to a physical or directed arrest, or a surrender, that occurs when another agency performs an investigation that leads to the arrest of the fugitive. A court may also dismiss a case against a person for various reasons, which has the effect of closing the warrant.

4 DEA has apprehension responsibility for all Federal arrest warrants resulting from DEA or DEA task force investigations. DEA may, however, delegate apprehension responsibility to the USMS whenever the subject of a DEA arrest warrant is not apprehended within 7 days after issuance of the warrant.

5 This includes 3,776 on hand as of April 1, 1993, and 14,003 which were received after that date.

6 The FY 1994 Congressional Authorization estimated there are 3,645 total positions at the USMS at a cost of $339 million. An estimated 604 permanent positions are dedicated to the USMS fugitive apprehension program at a cost of almost $48.2 million, making this program the second largest budget activity in the USMS. The largest USMS activity is Protection of the Judicial Process, which has 1,847 permanent positions and an allocation of $156 million.