Across state lines: does South Texas pick up its wanted felons?

by Joe Conger / KENS 5

Posted on March 12, 2014 at 7:34 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- A USA Today investigation found that nationwide, police have decided they won’t extradite or pick up nearly 187,000 wanted felons.

But the study shows Texas fares better: it appears most counties do extradite most of the fugitives they enter warrants for in the FBI system.

 “Our extraditions unit has gone after and brought back to Bexar County 1,790 individuals where the decision was 'extradite.' That’s almost 150 per month,” said Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau.

Bexar County has 11 deputies in its fugitive task force who go out and collect home-grown criminals from neighboring cities and states.

But Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Catherine Babbitt said bringing those fugitives to justice takes consideration and thought.

“I have to make sure that the case that is pending in Texas is one that I can prove, that I still have witnesses; that I still have evidence to go forward. Otherwise, I’m wasting taxpayer dollars to bring someone back to Texas for something that I’m going to have to turn around and dismiss because I don’t have any witnesses anymore,” added Babbitt.

In Kendall County, authorities pulled the plug on an extradition in January, when the burglary suspect was captured 4,000 miles away in Alaska.

Kendall County Chief Deputy Gary Miller said to bring Justin Boerner back to Waring, Texas to face burglary charges would cost $10,000 dollars.

“That would eat up our entire budget we have for a year transporting prisoners back,” Miller said.

Further south, in Wilson County, the extradition records there raised USA Today researchers’ eyebrows: because of the 61 warrants in the FBI database, Wilson County appeared to be willing to pick up only one suspect if located outside of Texas.

The other 60 were labeled as “do not extradite,” including some cases involving suspects accused of sex offenses, assault and a homicide.

Wilson County District Attorney Rene Pena says he was surprised by the data, and that his office “supports extraditing from out of state.”

Pena told the I-Team he would be discussing the issue further with the sheriff’s office.

Bexar County prosecutors said they are even willing to chase a fugitive overseas if required.

Just this week, investigators got a lead on a 12-year old case of sexual assault of a minor.

“I authorized an extradition from Europe,” said Babbitt, who acknowledged it may cost thousands of dollars to extradite. “It is, but the cost to that child is not outweighed by that,” she added.

Use the interactive below to compare the extradition percentage of other counties.