STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - June 16, 2008)
By Mr. BIDEN:
S. 3136. A bill to encourage the entry of felony warrants into the NCIC database by States and provide additional resources for extradition; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Fugitive Information Networked Database Act of 2008, or the FIND Act. This bill provides resources to law enforcement to ensure the entry of felony warrants into the national FBI database and to assist in tracking down and extraditing fugitives. It helps ensure that fugitives who flee their States will be located, apprehended, and brought to justice. It protects our communities by taking dangerous criminals off the streets.
According to a recent series of articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, anywhere from 1.9 million to 2.7 million felony fugitives are on the run from law enforcement. When State and local law enforcement issue a warrant for a fugitive's arrest, they are expected to enter it into the FBI's National Crime Information Center database as well as into their own State and local databases. The national database is accessible to all State and local law enforcement agencies, which use the national database to track fugitives around the country.
The national database is only as good as the information that States enter into it, however. Too often, State and local law enforcement agencies enter warrants into the State and local databases, but not into the national database. It is estimated that more than a third of all felony warrants have not been entered into the national database. That means anywhere from 800,000 to 1.6 million wanted felons can escape justice and remain at large in our communities simply by crossing State lines.
Unless a warrant is entered into the national database, a sheriff or police officer who stops a fugitive has no way of knowing that he is wanted in another jurisdiction--sometimes for a violent crime. Many fugitives go on to commit additional crimes in other States. Some know that if they can flee across State lines, there's a good chance they can--in some cases--get away with murder. This is inexcusable.
I have heard a range of reasons why State and local law enforcement have not been entering felony warrants into the national database. Some reasons are valid. For instance, if law enforcement is using a person suspected of a felony as an informant, it's understandable that they would not want to enter the informant's name into the database.
Many jurisdictions don't enter warrants into the national database, however, simply because they don't have the time and resources to update and validate warrant entries, which is a resource- and time-intensive process.
Fortunately, the burden of warrant entry and validation can be alleviated. By developing new databases, or by upgrading existing ones, to ensure compatibility and interoperability with the national database, State and local law enforcement can facilitate information sharing and seamless warrant entry into databases at all levels of government. With additional resources to hire personnel for the validation process, State and local law enforcement can enter felony warrants into the national database without worrying about not having the resources to validate them.
The FIND Act addresses the problem of warrant backlogs by providing State and local law enforcement with the resources necessary to develop and upgrade their systems, and hire additional personnel to perform the validation process. Specifically, it authorizes $25 million for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 for grants to States to develop new systems or upgrade existing systems so that they are interoperable with the NCIC database.
Another reason law enforcement doesn't enter felony warrants into the national database is concern that the State will not have the resources to extradite the fugitive if he is found outside the State's borders. Helping State and local agencies enter their felony warrants into the national database is therefore only half the battle. We also need to ensure that when a dangerous fugitive is caught, the jurisdiction in which he is wanted can work with the U.S. Marshals Service to extradite him to face justice.
While I was drafting this bill, I spoke to one sheriff who apprehended an individual wanted for rape in another State. The sheriff notified that State that he had their criminal in custody, but when the State said they didn't have the resources to extradite him, the sheriff had no choice but to free the rapist into his community.
When we in Congress do not provide law enforcement with the basic resources they need to extradite dangerous criminals like this, we fail in our most basic duty to those we represent--the duty to protect them from violent crime.
The U.S. Marshals Service is on the front lines of fugitive apprehension and extradition. We authorized funds several years ago for the development of Regional Fugitive Task Forces that combine the resources and expertise of State and local law enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service. These task forces have been very successful and could do much more to track down and extradite fugitives if they had the proper resources.
My bill authorizes an additional $20 million in fiscal year 2009 to fund existing and develop new regional task forces, and it provides $10 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. It also authorizes $3 million for each of fiscal years 2009 through 2014 to assist in the extradition of fugitives through the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transport System.
The FIND Act provides essential resources to locate, capture, and bring to justice dangerous fugitives. It takes commonsense steps to protect our communities from rapists, murderers, and other violent criminals who have fled across State lines. I urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
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