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In Ohio, some law enforcement agencies said the cost to extradite was too high. To help agencies cover the costs, the governor’s office has made $500,000 in grant funding available.
Across the state of Ohio, law enforcement agencies are estimated to have more than 500,000 open warrants.
One barrier preventing law enforcement from reducing that backlog is the cost of bringing people in to face charges when they have fled the region or the state. But a new grant program aims to address that problem.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety is now offering money to law enforcement agencies to cover the transportation and overtime costs associated with extraditing people wanted for certain serious offenses.
Extradition both inside and outside the state takes time and money. For small agencies the loss of one officer for a day or two to complete a pick up may be too high a price to pay, said Karhlton Moore, the executive director of the state’s Office of Criminal Justice Services.
The costs can add up quickly. For one sheriff’s office in Erie County, the cost to extradite an accused drug trafficker back to the state from Alabama was about $1,700. The Ohio State Highway Patrol contracts with a company that charges $1.10 per mile to transport wanted suspects, with a minimum $400 per transport charge required.
To help cover the costs, the Ohio Governor’s Warrant Task Force Report last year recommended the establishment of a grant fund. In its first iteration, $500,000 will be available to agencies on a first-come, first-serve basis to cover associated costs. Funds could be used to cover costs associated with extradition for 28 “tier one” offenses, including murder, rape, aggravated robbery, arson and abduction.
“I think it will make it much easier for law enforcement executives to say ‘This is a person we need to get,’” Moore said. “It won’t be able to provide additional personnel but it will ease the decision if they have to pay overtime to bring someone in.”
The problem is not unique to Ohio. Across the country, local law enforcement agencies have struggled to pay for extradition of wanted suspects. A USA Today investigation from 2014 found upwards of 330,000 cases in which local police had indicated they would not spend the time or money to pick up suspects arrested in another state. In Snohomish County, Washington, a separate investigation by a local TV news station found authorities were only entering 7% of warrants into a national database that would alert out-of-state officers that a person was wanted.
The disconnect in Ohio stemmed from a failure by law enforcement agencies to enter warrants into the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, database, Moore said. Law enforcement would enter the warrants into the state system, the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS), operated by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. But because agencies knew they didn’t have the money to extradite, they would not enter warrants into the national database, Moore said.
When warrants aren’t entered in the national database, out-of-state officers don’t have all the necessary information they need when they encounter a fugitive, Moore said. At a minimum, the state wants to encourage Ohio law enforcement to enter more warrants into the NCIC database so officers in other states have more information about wanted people living in their communities.
Education efforts on the part of the state, and discussion about extradition funding appear to have begun paying off. In February, Ohio law enforcement had 18,117 warrants into the NCIC database. As of January 23, the number of Ohio warrants in the national system was up to 35,526.
Ohio has not yet doled out its first extradition grant through the program, but is currently accepting applications, Moore said. Funding requests can be considered either ahead of an extradition or once it is complete, with the idea of giving law enforcement more flexibility, he said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine established the warrant task force last year to review current practices and make recommendations on how to reform warrant service in the state. The task force also recommended that all warrants be entered into both the state LEADS and national NCIC systems. The 1,076 law enforcement agencies in the state are not currently required to enter warrants into either system, but Moore said requiring them to do so would give Ohio authorities a much better understanding of the number of wanted persons.
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.