Nationwide, police and prosecutors quietly told the FBI they had abandoned their pursuit of nearly 79,000 accused felons during the past year and a half, a USA TODAY investigation found. They have given up chasing people charged with armed robbery and raping children, usually without informing their victims. Police in one county in California reported they would no longer pursue three of their most-wanted fugitives and a man charged with a murder for which prosecutors have sought the death penalty.
The authorities had previously told the FBI – which maintains a vast index of the nation's fugitives – that they would arrest each of those suspects if police anywhere else in the United States happened to find them, a process known as extradition. But in each case, police and prosecutors have since indicated they will no longer fetch the fugitives if they flee.
"That shocks me. I can't imagine why anybody would take a major felony and say we'll only arrest him within the state," said Joshua Marquis, the county prosecutor in Astoria, Ore., and a former vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. "I cannot imagine a case of sexual abuse or rape or murder where I would not go to the ends of the earth to get that person back."