Special report: law enforcement faces backlog of 87,942 state warrants

Published: Nov. 24, 2011 at 3:23 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2011 at 4:24 AM HST
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Nolan Sasaki
Nolan Sasaki

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Did you fail to go to court on a traffic ticket? Are you wanted for a serious crime? There are tens of thousands of people in Hawaii who have state warrants out on them.

In this special report, Hawaii News Now looks into the backlog of unserved warrants and rides along with law enforcement officers as they hunt down their targets.

"Just go ahead, go straight to the target," Nolan Sasaki, Hawaii Fugitive Task Force, said.

US Deputy Marshal Nolan Sasaki is on the trail of a state probation violator. A fellow marshal and two state deputy sheriffs are leading the operation in the unmarked vehicle in front of him.

Sasaki does a final run-through in his mind...

"Order of movement and how we're going to deploy out of the vehicles," he said.

...and hopes that all the prep work will pay off with a swift and safe take-down.

"Before we can even go on the road, we have to do our homework. We have to know who we're up against. We have to know who his associates may be," Glenn Ferreira, Hawaii Fugitive Task Force, said. "We have to prepare for the worst."

There are roughly 45 full- and part-time members of the Hawaii Fugitive Task Force, which was formed in 2003 to help local agencies reduce their backlog of unserved warrants by going after some of the worst -- the violent criminals, drug dealers and sex offenders.

"The District of Hawaii US Marshals Service wanted to reach out to the state and locals and help them go after their warrants, too, because we knew they had a lot of warrants out there," Ferreira said.

As of last month, state judiciary officials say there were 87,942 outstanding warrants across Hawaii with the total bail amount exceeding $41 million. There were 12,422 individuals with more than one warrant out against them.

Most of the bench warrants -- 57,426 -- were for traffic matters.

State sheriffs say they have about 40,000 traffic warrants stored at their office in Kakaako. The drawers are stuffed full. Newer warrants are being issued electronically, reducing the paperwork.

The Honolulu Police Department stores criminal warrants at its main station. Police say their officers work on serving warrants regularly. In the first 10 months of this year, HPD says it served about 5,000 misdemeanor warrants and nearly 1,000 felony warrants.

US Marshals deal with federal matters and are under no obligation to clear state warrants, but they do so when task force members -- who come from various agencies -- bring cases in. In the first 10 months of this year, the Hawaii Fugitive Task Force apprehended 754 state fugitives and cleared 1,049 state warrants.

"Putting the task force together was to go after Hawaii's most high-profile, high criminal history, violent offenders," Ferreira said. "At least we're going after them and trying to get them off the street."

On this day, Sasaki and his team come up empty, but they locate their target the very next day.

The message for anyone with an outstanding warrant...

"You can't start your life with a warrant," Ferreira said. "Come in, take care of it. If not, the US Marshals and the Hawaii Fugitive Task Force might be after you."

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.