Weeklong sweep yields 10,000 arrests

Nationwide effort conducted during crime victims' week

April 15, 2005|By Richard B. Schmitt | Richard B. Schmitt,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - In an operation that was equal parts police work, public relations and lobbying, the Justice Department said yesterday it had conducted an unusual 168-hour sweep with state and local authorities that yielded the arrest of more than 10,000 felons wanted for murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery and drug offenses.

The huge dragnet, which the government said it orchestrated to coincide with National Crime Victims' Rights Week, involved more than 3,100 law enforcement officers across the country, and agents from 25 federal agencies, led by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The sweep, accompanied by camera crews whose footage was aired on television news programs shortly after the arrests were announced, netted 162 murder suspects, 154 gang members and 106 unregistered sex offenders, as well as guns, drugs, cash and property.

The statistics were rolled out at a news conference at which officials said the exercise was an opportunity to show the benefits of cooperative traditional law enforcement in an age of terrorism - and to score some points with members of Congress.

The roundup was funded under a program that Congress established four years ago requiring the Marshals Service to help state and local crime-fighters clear the streets of the most violent criminals. That program has netted more than 147,000 fugitives.

Yesterday's arrests represented 1 percent of the roughly 1 million fugitives in the FBI national database, according to the Marshals Service.

Officials conceded that most, if not all, of the suspects picked up during the weeklong roundup, which began at dawn April 4, eventually would have been apprehended anyway.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the joint effort had yielded "the highest number of arrests ever recorded for a single initiative of its kind."

Among those caught was an alleged sex offender with prior arrests for arson and drug dealing who was nabbed in a makeshift cellar of a home in Atlanta. Police in Dallas arrested a man sought in connection with a shooting after leaving a drug stash house in February.

The arrests included 16 international fugitives, including 11 who had committed crimes in the United States and fled to countries including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, England and Canada. Also arrested were four suspects who were wanted in Mexico for homicide and who had entered the United States illegally.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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