Why some criminals are getting away with their crime

The problem

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) - They did the crime, but aren't doing the time. Outrageous--and a local sheriff says it happens all the time.

A police officer pulls over a driver and discovers they're wanted for a crime someplace else. So they arrest them right? Not always. I found a lot of them have to let them go.

"This individual, I believe, should be held accountable," said Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly.

Sheriff Kelly is frustrated. He knows a wanted sex offender is living in Springfield, but he can't arrest him.

Natalie: "Your hands are tied."
Sheriff Kelly: "We can't pick him up, we can't do anything."

The man is on the Clark County sex offender registry after being convicted of two child sex charges in Pennsylvania. He served time for those charges, but got in trouble again for violating his parole. We found at least two active arrest warrants out for him in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. They both want him to face a judge.

If authorities know where he is, why don't they come here and pick him up?

"They are not going to come and get him," said Sheriff Kelly.

It's too far away, too expensive and is out of this wanted sex offender's warrant's pick up radius.

And he's not the only one.

"Every hour of every day, people are wanted and we just turn them loose," said Sheriff Kelly.

2 NEWS Investigates found for every arrest warrant issued, law enforcement agencies will put a pick up radius code on it.
It's used to tell other agencies how far they're willing to travel if their criminal is caught by someone else.

We learned there are 5 codes that range from just their county to a nationwide pick up.
The more serious the crime, the wider range of pick up.

Natalie: "So essentially some criminals are getting away with their crime?"
Sheriff Kelly: "And many of the criminals know that."

So if that child sex offender living in Springfield was still in Pennsylvania, the county that wants him would most likely go get him. But even though he's living just one state over, his warrant would need to have a nationwide radius attached to it for them to cross the border.

We wanted to know, why not just make all warrants a nationwide pickup?

It's an expensive and long process.

"Well so many jurisdictions today are overburdened by the criminal justice system. Our prisons are overcrowded, our jails are overcrowded, our law enforcement agencies are understaffed and under manned. It's a symptom of a larger problem."

Law enforcement officers across the country I talked to say they're bogged down with having to serve more and more warrants every year and they don't have enough money to go after everyone. One officer said getting just one criminal out of state could cost several thousand dollars.

Natalie: "What would help?"
Sheriff Kelly: "If individuals were truly given consequences for their actions, we would have to build more jails. We would have to make incarceration more of a deterrent. Today, incarceration is not a big deal."

While there may be no immediate fix, Sheriff Kelly refuses to sit by. He's doing all he can to catch the wanted criminals who have left Clark County. He's expanded the pick up radius guidelines this year. For example, Clark County deputies will now travel to adjacent counties for a failure to appear warrant.

"We want people to be held accountable through our system here for what they've done," said Sheriff Kelly.

We checked and found Ohio does have measures in place that make it easier for counties to bring back wanted criminals.
Ohio's Attorney General's office put a program in place a few years ago allowing county sheriff's to apply to get reimbursed for going to get sex offenders who have fled their jurisdiction.
Several agencies also use the US Marshals to get wanted criminals who cross state and county lines.

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