Keeping Track Of Our Criminals

Larry Price
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Wednesday - June 18, 2008
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The death of a Good Samaritan in Waikiki last month, another in December in a parking lot on North School Street and just this month the death of Good Samaritan in Kaneohe were all crimes committed by people with unserved arrest warrants in the hands of Hawaii law enforcement agencies.

The number of unserved warrants is mind-boggling. A government task force in 2006 found that there were more than 74,000 arrest warrants waiting to be served statewide. The spokesperson for the state Judiciary said there were 52,942 traffic court warrants and 2,506 probation violations warrants outstanding. If you add another 20,000 misdemeanor arrest warrants to the list, all in the hands of county police departments, the numbers are amazing.

The governor just signed the 2008, $10.7-billion state budget into law, and there was no mention of any funds allocated to solving this problem. Police and sheriffs’ personnel responsible for serving outstanding arrest warrants have said on many occasions in recent years that they don’t have the personnel or financial resources to handle the backlog of unserved warrants. It’s a scary thought.

What’s being done to correct the situation?

The administrative judge for criminal cases has reportedly taken steps to call for felony bench warrants to be issued “forthwith.” I’m not sure what the legal definition of “forthwith” is, but the record shows that the public defender’s office has successfully protested, on more than one occasion, that the courts had not used due diligence in serving warrants on alleged criminals, or that there was no evidence that the warrants had been executed without unnecessary delay.

Little known to the public but common knowledge in the criminal and legal community, police can’t arrest a wanted offender without a paper copy of a warrant, even though the warrant exists electronically.

Judiciary spokesperson Marsha Kitagawa offers some hope to a nervous community. She said the long-planned “paperless” warrant system intended to solve the problem will soon be implemented. A pilot version of the system, called “eBenchWarrant,” is being tested now and should be ready by 2009 to do job. However, she went on to say that the “paperless” warrant system will only work for outstanding warrants issued since November 2006, and the most serious arrest warrants - those for felony offenders and parole and probation violators - will not be included in the “paperless” system.

I’m not a big nano technology advocate, but I’m reminded that scientists seem to keep track of everything dangerous or endangered. They’ve kept track of grizzly and polar bears in the wilderness, they do it with turtles, sharks, whales, monk seals - you name it, they know how to keep track of its whereabouts. The humane society implants microchips in dogs and cats to find them if they get lost, and in the most recent James Bond movie his handlers injected a chip in his forearm so they could find him if he got lost in the shuffle.

They put an ankle bracelet on Martha Stewart. Why couldn’t they do that with our criminal element? Our own Judicial Tag and Release Program.

It could mirror the tag-and-release program used on the Hawaiian yellowfin and bigeye tuna that roam the huge Pacific Ocean. The program addresses issues of the tuna movement and exploitation, and other problems fundamental to resolving concerns of their interaction and conflict with the environment, and even has a reward program for public assistance. It is capable of tracking thousands of fish as far away as Mexico. The fish are injected with a chemical that is completely harmless to them and they even retain their edible quality. This same method would-n’t hurt the alleged criminals when they are arrested. It’s painless and they could be tracked with a scanning device. The technology could be designed to make the felons beep, vibrate or glow in the dark, if desired.

Simply put, they would be easy to find and the program would be crucial to effective management of the large number of accused lawbreakers waiting to have their arrest warrant served. The retrieved data would be accurate and timely. Even their physical condition could be monitored and subject to instant analysis.

It could be worthy of a grant to fund a pilot project at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

We have invented so many weapons and technology designed to help law enforcement: Stun guns, rubber and wooden bullets, electronic leg bracelets, X-ray scanners, listening devices - why not a tagand-release injection?

Because currently it appears to the untrained eye that we are asking the Judiciary to do something it is not equipped to do.

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