April 16, 2005

Operation Falcon: Scam the Public?

Plastered all over the news the past few days were stories of how unprecedented cooperation between US law enforcement agencies led to 10,000 fugitives being arrested in Operation Falcon. This sounds impressive and did impress people. For instance, Law Pundit noted:

This is a sign of government law enforcement agencies working together effectively for the interests of the people and represents a modern landmark in law enforcement cooperation in getting the criminals off the streets.
This prompted me to remember the question I had asked myself when I read this in the morning paper yesterday: What is the normal rate of arrests?

Well, I did some checking via the The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2002 and found some interesting numbers:

  • Arrests for Violent Crime: 620,510 or 11,933/week; Operation Falcon 10,000 including some non-violent crimes
  • Arrests for Murder: 14158 or 272/week; Operation Falcon 162
No drug arrests in the above but apparently included in Operation Falcon!

My suspicion is that they simply reported business as usual (in some cases less than usual) and by giving it one of those magic labels, Operation Falcon, and publicizing it they have tried to make us think something new and wonderful is happening. Well, welcome to the world of marketing and government BS.

Oh, and if this really was a real coordinated effort, then we did not get our money's worth (surprise) as they appear to have failed to meet even average arrest rates.

Update 4/18: More on this at Marginal Revolution and the Washington Post.

Posted by Steve on April 16, 2005

I was in law enforcement for a decade and have participated in these circuses.

At any given time in a reasonably large department you have people who are wanted on warrants. You contact the people who issued the warrant and find out they don't have the money to pick up the perp, so you release them.

Them someone comes along at election time and provides the money, so these guys get shipped back.

All it takes is money and manpower to generate these kinds of numbers. For some reason not too many perps are willing to take a bus ticket on their own to go back where they face jail time. Some people have no civic feeling.

I was helping a friend who was an AIDS counselor, and one of her clients wanted to go back and clear up some legal problems before her health got worse. The Atlanta PD told her not to come, because they didn't have space for her. The local PD cleared the warrant from the system, so she wouldn't get hassled.

Posted by Bryan at April 16, 2005 7:38 PM
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