Citizens United to Find Fugitives
CUFF was founded by an association of individuals who have been the victims of clever criminals - the kind of people who know how to manipulate the legal system in order to deceive and steal, then disappear across state lines into comfortable obscurity.
These criminals have learned not to worry much about the consequences of their acts because they know the system has to find them first.
And the odds of that happening today in America are exceedingly slim. But even if they are found, as long as they remain outside of the jurisdiction that holds the warrant and the warrant is not extraditable, there is nothing law enforcement can do about it - a fact known to most fugitives but to very few victims.
After much discouragement and disillusionment, these victims have learned that the criminal justice system does not offer a quick and easy solution for finding fugitives.
The difficulty of finding at any given time literally millions of criminal fugitives in 50 states over thousands of miles in thousands of cities and towns is so monumental that it can easily cause law enforcement personnel to become fatalistic.
Over and again victims are consoled by well-meaning police who assure them that the fugitives "will eventually do something stupid and be caught." While this may be true, how many lives will they devastate before they are caught?
When a criminal changes his name and/or uses a false ID, it is virtually impossible for the police or even the FBI to help a citizen identify this person. This is because in order to search the database of the National Crime Identification Center - the NCIC, you must have the name, DOB or Social Security Number of a criminal.
But unfortunately, the professional con man living on the edge or the felony fugitive living underground rarely provide that kind of data to their victims. (Straight Shooter ID No. 583, wanted for attempted murder of police officers, used a false ID to fool police 10 times over 7 years.)
However, even if a citizen does know the correct name of a fugitive and reports his exact whereabouts to the police in the municipality where a warrant was issued, an arrest will not be made if the criminal is out of the extradition range. These non-extraditable crimes are not just minor misdemeanor charges.
The charges can range from drug use to theft and fraud. And worse yet, even if a citizen can verify for the police that a criminal has a warrant in several states for the same crime, an arrest will still not be made as long as the fugitive remains just on the other side of the the extradition border.
When law enforcement enters a fugitive into the NCIC, it means they are willing to pay to bring the fugitive back from outside their jurisdiction. Generally, it means extradition from any state, with some exceptions. Some states, however, have additional requirements for NCIC warrants.
For example, Washington State will not extradite an out-of-state fugitive wanted on a probation warrant unless a Washington State court hears the case, agrees with its merits and then issues a separate warrant that is valid in Washington. This policy allows the fugitive ample time to flee the state if he is aware that the police know about his out-of-state warrant.
But even if a state is willing to cooperate completely with an extradition warrant, only about 20% of the nation's felony fugitives are listed in the NCIC. In 1999, that totaled approximately 516,000 felons - up 51% from 1990.
So, 80% of the approximate 2.5 million felony fugitives on record have an excellent chance of never being picked up for their charges as long as they steer clear of the state that issued their warrant.
One of the reasons for the low number of fugitives in the NCIC is the states' limited budgets. They don't have the funding to pay for the travel expense and paperwork of extraditing their fugitives from another state.
The end result, of course, is that these fugitives often commit new crimes in other states and, unless the new state issues an extraditable warrant, the cycle continues.
Because of the difficulty of finding fugitives who really want to disappear, there are literally millions of criminals who have been running from felonies for years, some of them for decades, and are still living free, maybe living next door to you, married to unknowing spouses and holding jobs. Some of these fugitives are wanted for murder.
Number 442 in the STRAIGHT SHOOTER database was apprehended by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in May 2002 - 32 years after escaping from jail where she had been sentenced to 99 years for the murder of a store owner during a robbery.
During her years on the lam, she had married three times and, when captured, was living with her most recent husband of two years, who claimed not to know her true identity.
In a Washington Post interview in May 2000, a U.S. Marshals Service agent who formerly headed the D.C. Joint Fugitive Task Force of local and federal law enforcement agencies stated, "You can't walk down the street today without passing somebody who is wanted."
In an August 2, 2002 TV interview, the attorney general of California, Bill Lockyer, stated that the public is unrealistically expecting law enforcement to track down fugitives.
He said in California there are more than 200,000 felony fugitives, more than twice the number of the state's police personnel. 2,700 of these fugitives are wanted for murder.
The criminal justice system has spent money and time to charge, arraign and/or convict these fugitives. It doesn't even matter if a judge or a jury has heard the evidence and a decision has been rendered.
The system delivered to us by the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers, the system that protects the rights of both the victims and the defendants has worked... except that the defendants cheated - they got away. And now more money and time must be spent to find them. And while they are free, many of them will commit more crimes and harm more innocent victims.
Most people will probably live their entire lives without having a close encounter with a fugitive. But if you are that rare individual who finds yourself working or associating with someone who "just seems suspicious," what do you do? If you go to the local police, you may be shocked to learn that their internal protocol does not permit them to divulge to the public the names of people who have outstanding warrants.
But even if you are fortunate enough to know someone in the police department who will make an exception for you or you are in a forwarding thinking municipality that will give you warrant information, you still may not get to the truth.
If the person does not have outstanding warrants in the NCIC or in your state's wants and warrants database, it is possible for the person to have an outstanding warrant in one of over 18,000 municipal jurisdictions in the U.S. And what do you do if the person is using an alias?
In 1997 in Massachusetts a fugitive named Charles Jaynes was able to evade apprehension from 75 different warrants in 18 different jurisdictions until he was finally caught - after murdering a 10-year-old boy.
Surely, there were citizens who at one time or another were suspicious of this person. Was it not their responsibility to let the police know about their suspicions? And is it not the responsibility of the police to take these tips seriously and check them out? If neither is done, then one thing is inevitable - fugitives will continue to evade capture.
As a result of the 9/11 tragedy major reforms in the criminal justice system have taken place, many of which address the fugitive issue. The FBI is modernizing its technology, including the integration of law enforcement databases; biometrics, such as facial recognition and retina scanning, is being implemented in airports and other public arenas; a national driver's license is being considered; ID chips imbedded under the skin are even being suggested for parolees and probationers.
Currently, Florida is testing GPS units, worn as ankle bracelets by sex offenders, which can record the whereabouts of the offender at any time. And Illinois is testing similar GPS recorders for parolees and those under house arrest.
But even if law enforcement is able to establish a fool-proof method for identifying fugitives, current protocol will dictate that it remain an internal mechanism, not to be shared with the public. Most law enforcement agencies currently refuse to provide information on outstanding warrants to anyone calling on the phone.
The only person authorized to access this warrant information is the fugitive himself. The reasoning is that if a fugitive is not told that he has an outstanding warrant, one day he might wander into the police precinct where he will be promptly arrested.
It doesn't require statistics to know that far more fugitives are captured from citizens' tips than are arrested when they drop by the police department for one reason or the other only to be surprised with handcuffs by the duty officer.
Ironically, some of these same police departments have Web sites that post photos of and details about selected fugitives.
For the sake of all dedicated police officers who risk their lives daily to protect their communities, we look forward to the reforms thatwill increase the safety of their jobs as well as improve the chances of catching fugitives.
However, we know that the public must be able to help them in their search for fugitives. It is in the best interest of the police and the public as a whole. And that is why we have created the STRAIGHT SHOOTER Web site.
We know citizens want to help the police protect them. When TV executives tried to take America's Most Wanted off the air, the public uproar quickly changed their minds. Crime Stoppers, Silent Witness and other crime TIPS programs have for years worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement with outstanding results.
And now, post 9/11, the public's help is more important than ever as federal agencies shift their funds and manpower from domestic crime-fighting to Homeland Security.
The Internet offers an incredible opportunity to expose fugitives. It is a 24-hour-a-day bulletin board accessible anywhere in the world. All that is required is a fool-proof database that allows a searcher to find a fugitive regardless of what kind of disguise or alias is used.
That is what CUFF has done. Virtually everything known about the subject can be entered, from the physical description to detailed background information. If a fugitive is in the database, a searcher will find the subject simply by inputting the selected criteria and then viewing the mug shots.
We have christened our Web site "STRAIGHT SHOOTER" because a fair-minded, forthright, law-abiding person is often described as a "straight shooter" - quite the opposite of the fugitives in our database.
And because that's what it will take to resolve the fugitive crisis - principled people who aim directly at the problem and aren't afraid to pull the political trigger.
Criminal fugitives are enemies of the people and, as we were cruelly reminded on 9/11/2001, some enemies try to seriously hurt you - even blow up the building you are working in.
Mohamed Atta, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attack, was a fugitive from justice in Florida when he and his fellow hijackers steered an airliner into one of the World Trade Center towers. Atta, who had an outstanding warrant in Broward County, Florida for failing to appear in court in June 2001 for driving without a license, was actually stopped for speeding one month later in another Florida county, but his warrant did not appear in the national, state or county databases.
Because the Delray Beach, Florida police officer who stopped Atta in July did not know about the outstanding warrant, he was cited for a traffic violation and sent on his way. His warrant did not appear in the databases because "If all of them (warrants) were put in, it would lock down the system," a police captain in Delray Beach told Associated Press in October 2001.
CUFF is confident that the technology is available today that will allow all fugitives to be entered into a national database without locking down the system.
The credit reporting agencies manage to handle tens of millions of records without locking down and so does the Social Security Administration. The technology is not the problem. The will to do it is.
The STRAIGHT SHOOTER.Net Web site provides a safe, secure way for Straight Shooters to help find fugitives: (1) Simply search the database and if you spot a fugitive whose whereabouts you know, call the listed Contact or e-mail STRAIGHT SHOOTER and (2) Enter into the database a fugitive who has harmed you so others may help find the criminal before further damage is done and so that justice can be obtained.
Anyone may enter a fugitive in the database. All information will be verified by STRAIGHT SHOOTER to ensure accuracy. All subjects are reviewed and updated monthly. New entries are published weekly. Photos are available for most fugitives. Tips can be directed to STRAIGHT SHOOTER or to the contact listed for the database subject.
The database is not limited only to criminal fugitives. It also contains child support fugitives, sex offenders, criminal histories, unknown suspects, persons with unknown identities, unsolved crimes, missing persons and civil judgments.
The criminal database includes ALL of the fugitives published on all federal government fugitive Web sites: The FBI's Ten Most Wanted, the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives, the U.S. Marshal's 15 Most Wanted, the U.S. Marshal's Major Cases, U.S. Customs, the U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). It also includes all American fugitives on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Web site. Because of the large number of foreign fugitives on this site, some of them have not been included.
The database also includes fugitives from all 50 states, with charges ranging from bad check writing to murder.
Each week more fugitives are entered into the database and those that are apprehended are added to the Round-Up Roster.
CUFF does not have official membership requirements. You may join
by donating or just by caring enough about the fugitive problem to
e-mail us your thoughts.
If you are a fraud victim, you may wish to e-mail us your circumstances to see if we can help. Here's what we can do: Help Fraud Victims
Or, if you are a fraud victim who successfully prosecuted or obtained a judgment against a con artist, you may want to register as a volunteer for our Fraud Fighters Force
These are victims with steel backbones who chose to attack rather than acquiesce. They are willing to share their experiences with others in the hopes of prosecuting con artists as well as giving emotional support to the victim.
You may also want to write your legislator urging them to change the laws that make it difficult to apprehend fugitives. (Fugitive laws) We all know the old adage: "Those who show up at the meeting make the rules." A very few people can make a very big difference simply by caring enough to express their opinion.
We welcome you to STRAIGHT SHOOTER and hope you'll tell your friends about us. We are here to expose fugitives so that they may be apprehended and our communities made safe.
The more people who view the database the better the odds of finding the fugitives that are in it. We also encourage you to call your local police department and ask them if they are putting their fugitives in the STRAIGHT SHOOTER database and putting a STRAIGHT SHOOTER link on their Web site. The more public exposure fugitives have the greater the odds of finding them.
The above info is from Rhoda Cook of the Straightshooter.net site.