My daily email from the Police Executive Research Forum yesterday contained a link to a three-part series from USA Today:
The ones that get away
A license to commit crime
The short arm of the law
These concern an ugly truth about dysfunction in the criminal justice system that is little known by the public, but often encountered by police officers. Many wanted fugitives, for whom felony arrest warrants exist, evade arrest by simply leaving the state--because in many states, prosecutors are unwilling to bear the expense of extradition, the process through which a fugitive is returned to the state where the charges originate.
The USA Today series tells the stories of what occurs as a result: some of these wanted felons go on to commit more crimes, including robberies, rapes, and murders. How would you feel, if your own family member was the victim of such a crime, when you learn that the local authorities has arrested the defendant on an out-of-state felony warrant, but had been forced to release him because the state of origin declined to extradite? What a sad state of affairs.
I've encountered this throughout my career, from both sides, and I get it: extradition is expensive, and it makes little sense to spend a few thousand dollars to bring a forger back from Florida to face a fine of a few hundred. We can just try to execute the warrant when and if he returns to our state. But when a fugitive wanted for a violent felony is arrested in another state, and the authorities in the originating jurisdiction are unwilling to bring him back to face justice, that is another matter. They should just fold up their tent and close down, because the first obligation of government is to protect the citizens, and they have failed.