Authorities hit east side in search for fugitives

Police, deputies arrest 59 on outstanding warrants in morning effort

January 29, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police and sheriff's deputies rousted slumbering fugitives from their homes yesterday morning to find some of the thousands of people wanted on outstanding arrest warrants.

Officers bundled up against subfreezing weather hit the snow-encrusted east side before dawn to chase down suspects in one of the first public efforts under the city's new mayor and police commissioner.

By noon, 59 people had been arrested on various charges, including attempted murder, assault, drug possession, traffic violations, probation violations and failure to make court appearances.

A week's worth of stepped-up enforcement by city police netted an additional 20 people charged with serious felonies, including four wanted in homicides and several others in nonfatal shootings.

"I believe each and every one of you wants to go out and scoop these people up," Sheriff John W. Anderson told 100 officers and deputies at a 5 a.m. briefing yesterday. "This is our day."

Though various law enforcement officials throughout Baltimore serve nearly 10,000 arrest warrants a year, city police have discovered 51,000 crimes in which a suspect has been identified but not apprehended.

Erasing the backlog has emerged as a top priority for Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel, who started Jan. 3 with expectations to reduce homicides that have exceeded 300 each year for a decade.

Mayor Martin O'Malley has said he is impatient for Daniel to begin implementing new strategies as people continue to die on the streets. There have been 25 killings in the first 27 days this month.

Police are expected to begin reclaiming drug corners next week to fulfill a campaign promise by O'Malley to clear 10 within six months of taking office. They identified the first two last week.

The hunt for fugitives has been under way since last weekend. Police say it will help reduce violence by locking up repeat offenders who studies show are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime.

Most of the 51,000 open warrants are for nonviolent or minor crimes. More than 6,000 people are wanted in Baltimore for failing to pay child support. About 260 people are wanted on murder or attempted murder charges.

Police in the past have only made cursory attempts to serve warrants dealing with minor charges -- many of which surface only when a suspect is arrested on another crime and a record check is conducted.

The state-run Central Booking and Intake Center, where arrestees are processed, has matched 20,576 unserved warrants to people arrested between September 1998 and August.

It has helped police throughout the state identify suspects in 737 unsolved crimes, including seven homicides and two rapes, demonstrating how tracking fugitives can help rid streets of criminals.

Yesterday morning, with temperatures hovering around 16 degrees, officers grabbed lists containing the names of 300 fugitives who live in East Baltimore. "It's a smorgasbord of criminality," Anderson said.

Finding them wasn't easy. Anderson accompanied a team of his deputies who managed to find only one in its first six tries.

That was a woman, convicted of using drugs, who is wanted for violating the terms of her probation.

"You asked for her, I gave her up," the woman's mother told deputies. The handcuffed suspect shouted, "Mama, I love you," as officers helped her over a snow drift and into a police van.

A deputy slammed the door shut and said jokingly: "They say we got 50,000 warrants? We got 49,999 left."

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