Finally wanted: Police to chase thousands of fugitives

Posted: Monday December 29, 2014, 12:55 AM>

PHILADELPHIA — Five years after he ran from charges that he assaulted a sleeping college student on an overnight flight from Los Angeles, Yamin Ren is finally a wanted man.

For years, authorities said they would not spend the time or money to pursue Ren — who lived in California — as long as he stayed out of their state. For years, he remained free.

Now, after a USA TODAY investigation, authorities here and across the USA have promised to bring Ren and thousands of other fugitives back to face justice regardless of where they are found.

The newspaper found this year that more than 330,000 accused felons — including some wanted in rapes and murders — can escape the charges against them merely by crossing a state border because police and prosecutors secretly decided in advance not to go that far to retrieve them. In the months that followed, officials from Florida to Pennsylvania reversed those decisions by the thousands, informing the FBI that they intend to retrieve fugitives from anyplace in the USA.

In Philadelphia, prosecutors reviewed thousands of the city's old felony case files and identified hundreds of fugitives they plan to retrieve if the suspects surface in other states, a process known as extradition. Prosecutors approved extradition in at least 500 new cases, promising to seek people from other states for crimes as minor as drug possession, according to FBI records and court files.

"Philadelphia took to heart the story and realized that maybe they weren't doing as good of a job as they could have been. So I think they've certainly increased their efforts," said Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm.

Progress in Philadelphia and elsewhere has nonetheless been halting, illustrating the challenges officials face in pursuing fugitives across the nation's patchwork justice system. Despite having identified hundreds of fugitives who should have been approved for extradition, many of the changes had yet to be entered into the FBI's fugitive tracking database as of mid-October, meaning some of the suspects could continue to get away. In many other cities, the number of fugitives police say they won't pursue has shot up dramatically.

Read the rest at USA TODAY.