District of Columbia police and federal law enforcement officers arrested 614 fugitives during a secret, 10-week roundup aimed at career and violent criminals, city and federal officials announced yesterday.
About two-thirds of those arrested have been released pending trial, according to Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District.
Results of the $500,000 program--paid for by the Justice Department -- were released in a ceremony at police headquarters by U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, Mayor Marion Barry and D'Amato while members of the 59-member task force sat in the audience.
"Somebody's going to have to take the shine off the party," said D'Amato, a frequent critic of what he called "permissive" bail laws and judges who allow too many suspects to go back on the street too quickly. D'Amato said police are frustrated by what he characterized as "a revolving door" of justice.
D'Amato said of the 614 arrested persons, all of whom have been convicted previously of a crime, only 225 were still in jail.
Barry and the D.C. City Council earlier this year amended the city's pretrial detention law to allow judges to hold some suspects for up to 90 days before trial after D'Amato publicly criticized the District's crime rate and said repeat offenders are responsible for most crimes.
"I don't feel safe," D'Amato said yesterday. "People don't feel safe in their homes or on their way to work." D'Amato said crime is a national problem, but singled out the District particularly for not having done enough to protect its citizens.
In response to a question, D'Amato declined to say whether he would support an effort to give citizens more control over judicial appointments by giving the mayor the authority to appoint judges and a local prosecutor, officials who now are appointed by the president.
Both Barry and Smith gave brief, low-key speeches about the anticrime program -- which began in early September and ended last week -- and declined to join D'Amato in his criticism of the judiciary. However, after the press conference, Police Chief Maurice Turner said he "wholeheartedly concurs" with D'Amato's views.
Smith, standing next to a display board of about 200 wanted posters with "apprehended" stamped across them in red letters, hailed the crime-fighting program as one way the federal government can assist local officials in an important area.
He said similar programs -- officially called the Fugitive Investigative Strike Team, or FIST -- have been carried out in Miami, Los Angeles and New York City. A total of about 500 persons were arrested in those operations.
Just over 50 percent of those arrested in the District program were wanted for violent crimes or narcotics offenses, Smith said. He said police had determined that the 614 arrested persons had been involved in about 2,300 crimes. Currently, there are about 5,000 outstanding warrants.
Under the program, officials said, the 29 D.C. police officers involved were deputized as special U.S. marshals so they could make arrests outside the District. About 95 percent of the arrests were made in the District, officials said.