After bailing himself out of jail last year on charges of child sexual abuse, a local man fled to Texas where he later was accused of abusing a second child.
Utah County sheriff's officials caught up with the man earlier this year, shortly after implementing aggressive policies and procedures to track down those who have fled from justice."We might never have found him had we not gone through the time and effort of putting this system in place," said Marc Johnson, who supervises the department's reorganized and improved warrants division.
The new emphasis to track down fugitives has enabled the sheriff's department to clear nearly twice as many arrest warrants the first five months of this year as it cleared all of last year - 1,420 compared to 815. In addition, the number of out-of-state extraditions and individuals jailed after being picked up on warrants also doubled over the same period.
As a result of Sheriff Dave Bateman placing increased emphasis on the warrants division, warrants record-keeping was automated using computer software designed by the department to generate updated statistical data.
After an evaluation of past efforts, Johnson said, the department realized the need to improve accountability and productivity by keeping warrants updated. Under the program, the sheriff's department is able to better track down those who abscond while out on bail, before going to trial, prior to being sentenced or while out on probation or parole.
Johnson said other state law enforcement agencies have yet to implement similar automated programs, and that local effort likely will serve as a model statewide. Several agencies already have contacted Utah County for information about its program.
"We're up to date now on a daily basis," Bateman said. The system has eased concerns somewhat about arrests of individuals whose warrants have already been cleared. Such arrests often result in lawsuits against arresting agencies, he said.
Capt. Jerry Scott said the department's new philosophy is to update daily a warrant's status. That philosophy has prompted increased cooperation between the sheriff's department and the county attorney's office for the issuance of warrants.
Rich Townsend, director of the State Bureau of Criminal Identification, welcomes Utah County's efforts.
"The use of computers is definitely going to change the way warrants were issued in the past," he said. Townsend said sheriff's departments like Utah County's "definitely have a high rate of success, and we commend those efforts. As far as Captain Scott's program, I'm tickled to death about his efforts."
Under the new program, Scott said, the department is better prepared with updated warrant information needed to list criminals with the National Crime Information Center - a listing of fugitives shared by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
"We're trying to develop the philosophy that if we have a felony warrant and we list it, then we'll go after the person," Scott said. "It's not all talk and show."
The department was less willing in the past to list warrants with the NCIC because of its inability to maintain a warrant's updated status and meet stringent NCIC criteria.
As a result, many fugitives had what Scott called a "good-riddance attitude," feeling they could flee without fear that the county would come after them.
Bateman said the department is not only doing a better job keeping track of warrants, but its computer-automated system has enabled it to do so with fewer officers. Johnson said the department is updating its computer system with state-of-the-art equipment expected to be on line within the next few months.
Statewide, more than $20 million in warrant fines and bails is outstanding, Townsend said. He said increased efforts are needed to track down those who have absconded.
In addition to collecting unpaid fines from fugitives, Scott said, the department requests that additional fines be levied to cover the cost of finding individuals and returning them to the county.
Townsend said he hopes efforts to automate warrants divisions eventually leads to a statewide system that ties all systems together. A proposed statewide network died in the Legislature last session.
Townsend said a statewide system would pay for itself many times over by increasing the state's ability to find fugitives and collect fines.
"It's a shame that ( statewide system) isn't seen in that perspective," he said.
Utah County Sheriff's Department
So far this year 1987
Misdemeanors 1,333 780
Felonies 79 35
Juvenile warrants 8 0