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Unit scours Arizona for fugitives with warrants, KTAR follows along

PHOENIX — A U.S. Marshals Service unit hunts down the most violent, and dangerous fugitives with warrants in Arizona. KTAR News spent an afternoon with the joint operation squad last week as they scoured Valley streets for criminals on the loose.

“We’ve got a tip on a guy with a parole violation warrant just down the street,” said a detective with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office who is also assigned to the unit. “His charges include aggravated assault, weapons, and assault on law enforcement.”

The man’s family told the unit where to find him because they were concerned that he was off his medication, said the detective, who cannot be identified because of the unit’s undercover work.

“We’ve been told he is sleeping under a fifth wheel truck near a house up ahead,” he said. “We’re just waiting on a K-9 unit in case the subject has a weapon.”

About eight or nine detectives comprised of various Arizona police warrant units, members from the Department of Public Safety, Arizona Probation and the Department of Corrections, quietly approach the fugitive.

“Come out or you’re going to get bit,” yelled the K-9 officer.

The fugitive reaches for something in a bag, which causes the K-9 unit to be deployed. The man is quickly subdued and taken into custody.

“We’re going to wait for fire officials to look at the dog bite, and then our parole violator will go directly back to prison,” said the unidentified detective.

The operation is over. From the time the fugitive was sleeping under a truck, to handcuffs, to getting medically cleared by the fire department, just over 10 minutes has passed.

“And we were on our way to the next warrant,” he said. “We like to be quick but safe. We want to get in quietly, get them, and get out quietly.”

Most of the time the community isn’t even aware that anyone was arrested in their neighborhood, he said.

“As stealthily as we can. Slip into a neighborhood, we do our surveillance, we do whatever else we need to, to be able to verify our targets are at a residence,” he said. “Then we go ahead and hit it, take them in to custody, and slide back out.”

We target what they call violent offenders; we do a lot of weapons misconduct cases, sex offenders, and gang cases.
“We also do a lot of homicide cases,” he said. “You don’t want somebody who just got done killing a person, hanging out in your community, just drinking a beer on the porch.”

Some days are spent doing surveillance and research with no arrests made, while others have had as many as nine arrests in one day. The detective estimates last year the unit made as many as 1,000 arrests.

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