Federal Fugitives:

More Timely Entry on National Wanted Person File Is Needed

GGD-96-64: Published: Feb 26, 1996. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1996.

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GAO reviewed the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) wanted person file, focusing on the: (1) length of time it takes federal law enforcement agencies to enter fugitives onto the file; (2) information that agencies have on data entry times and the means used to monitor entry times; and (3) agencies' plans to reduce entry delays.

GAO found that: (1) FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) require that fugitives be entered onto the wanted persons file within one day after an arrest warrant is issued; (2) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) allows up to ten days for data entry if the delay serves a valid law enforcement purpose; (3) the Customs Service requires data entry after reasonable efforts to locate a fugitive have failed; (4) the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has no policy regarding the timeliness of data entry; (5) 28 percent of FBI, USMS, ATF, and Customs' entries are made one day after issuance of the arrest warrant, 54 percent within one week, and 70 percent within four weeks; (6) data entry times for dangerous fugitives do not differ substantially from overall data entry times; (7) ATF and Customs do not monitor their data entry times or know the reasons for delays in entering fugitives on the wanted persons file; (8) FBI found that there are delays in between 30 and 50 percent of its data entries, with a median delay of about one week; and (9) all the federal law enforcement agencies plan to take action to minimize data entry delays.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FBI provided information indicating that its policy states that a timely entry is one that is made immediately after a decision has been made to arrest or authorize arrest. FBI policy also defines an immediate fugitive entry as an entry into NCIC within 24 hours of obtaining an arrest warrant. The policy allows for the delayed entry of fugitives into NCIC where imminent arrest is expected or other mitigating reasons exist. The Marshals Service informed GAO that its policy requires that all Class I fugitives be immediately recorded (within 24 hours) as wanted persons in NCIC upon receipt of the proper warrant or notification. On December 3, 1996 DOJ's Office of Investigative Agency Policies (OIAP) issued Resolution 19 requiring INS to enter Wanted Persons Warrants into NCIC within 24 hours. The INS current policy of entering Wanted Persons Warrants into NCIC was within parameters of Resolution 19.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Directors of FBI and USMS and the Commissioner, INS, to ensure that they have written policies that require immediate entry of fugitives onto the NCIC wanted person file, unless imminent arrest is expected or other mitigating reasons exist.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Customs Service informed GAO that it had issued revised policy guidance to require the entry of fugitives on NCIC within 24 hours. ATF further revised its existing policy guidance to call for entry within 24 hours.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should require the Director, ATF, and the Commissioner of Customs to ensure that they have written policies that require immediate entry of fugitives onto the NCIC wanted person file, unless imminent arrest is expected or other mitigating reasons exist.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the June 12-13, 1996 meeting of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (Board), the Chairman of the NCIC Subcommittee presented the GAO report on federal fugitives and timely entry of records into the NCIC system to the Board. The Subcommittee outlined the GAO recommendations and put forth a motion for corrective action by the Board. The Board subsequently approved the Subcommittees action, set forth in the June 1996 Minutes of the CJIS Board, Topic 7 and Director Freeh's Resolution 19, dated December 3, 1996. NCIC users were notified of the policy changes approved by the Board during the June 1996 meeting via the November 8, 1996 edition of the NCIC Technical and Operational Update (attached). This publication serves as a vehicle to notify users of recent NCIC system changes, changes to the NCIC Code Manual, and to provide users with current NCIC operating statistics.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General, as the official ultimately responsible for NCIC and the wanted person file, should seek consensus among federal law enforcement agencies on a definition of immediate entry and include this definition as guidance in the NCIC operating policies on the use of the wanted person file.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FBI provided information indicating that its policy requires its regular periodic inspections of field office support services to include reviews of the timeliness of fugitive entries. Also, each field office NCIC coordinator and squad supervisor is responsible for ensuring timely entry. The Marshals Service's program review guidelines also require the review of field office records concerning the timeliness of entries. To facilitate these reviews, the Service recently added a "NCIC entry date" element to its Warrant Information Network. On December 18, 1996 DOJ's OIAP issued a review of the INS's procedure for entering Wanted Persons Warrants into NCIC. The Executive Advisory Board of the OIAP stated that INS's entry policy is within the parameters of Resolution 19 that requires warrants to be entered immediately.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury should require agency heads to establish and implement measures for ensuring compliance with the policy for immediate entry of fugitives' data onto the NCIC wanted person file, including periodically reviewing entry times and identifying and evaluating reasons for delays.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ATF issued a memorandum to its field offices reiterating its entry time policy and outlining steps taken or planned to enforce its policy, including establishing audit and follow-up procedures. ATF also planned to enhance its capacity to monitor entry times and identify problems by obtaining more information on entries. ATF's internal inspection staff also planned to consider examining entry times as part of its field office inspections. Customs planned to monitor entry times and contact field offices as necessary.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury should require agency heads to establish and implement measures for ensuring compliance with the policy for immediate entry of fugitives' data onto the NCIC wanted person file, including periodically reviewing entry times and identifying and evaluating reasons for delays.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the June 12-13, 1996 meeting of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (Board), the Chairman of the NCIC Subcommittee presented the GAO report on federal fugitives and timely entry of records into the NCIC system to the Board. The Subcommittee outlined the GAO recommendations and put forth a motion for corrective action by the Board. The Board subsequently approved the Subcommittees action, set forth in the June 1996 Minutes of the CJIS Board, Topic 7 and Director Freeh's Resolution 19, dated December 3, 1996. NCIC users were notified of the policy changes approved by the Board during the June 1996 meeting via the November 8, 1996 edition of the NCIC Technical and Operational Update (attached). This publication serves as a vehicle to notify users of recent NCIC system changes, changes to the NCIC Code Manual, and to provide users with current NCIC operating statistics.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury should require the heads of other agencies within their respective departments that use the wanted person file to determine whether they have adequate entry time policies and monitoring mechanisms and, if not, to establish such policies and mechanisms.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the June 12-13, 1996 meeting of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (Board), the Chairman of the NCIC Subcommittee presented the GAO report on federal fugitives and timely entry of records into the NCIC system to the Board. The Subcommittee outlined the GAO recommendations and put forth a motion for corrective action by the Board. The Board subsequently approved the Subcommittees action, set forth in the June 1996 Minutes of the CJIS Board, Topic 7 and Director Freeh's Resolution 19, dated December 3, 1996. NCIC users were notified of the policy changes approved by the Board during the June 1996 meeting via the November 8, 1996 edition of the NCIC Technical and Operational Update (attached). This publication serves as a vehicle to notify users of recent NCIC system changes, changes to the NCIC Code Manual, and to provide users with current NCIC operating statistics.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury should require the heads of other agencies within their respective departments that use the wanted person file to determine whether they have adequate entry time policies and monitoring mechanisms and, if not, to establish such policies and mechanisms.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During the June 12-13, 1996 meeting of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (Board), the Chairman of the NCIC Subcommittee presented the GAO report on federal fugitives and timely entry of records into the NCIC system to the Board. The Subcommittee outlined the GAO recommendations and put forth a motion for corrective action by the Board. The Board subsequently approved the Subcommittees action, set forth in the June 1996 Minutes of the CJIS Board, Topic 7 and Director Freeh's Resolution 19, dated December 3, 1996. NCIC users were notified of the policy changes approved by the Board during the June 1996 meeting via the November 8, 1996 edition of the NCIC Technical and Operational Update (attached). This publication serves as a vehicle to notify users of recent NCIC system changes, changes to the NCIC Code Manual, and to provide users with current NCIC operating statistics.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, FBI, working with the NCIC Advisory Policy Board to advise law enforcement organizations in federal departments and agencies outside of the Departments of Justice and the Treasury of the importance of timely entry and encourage them to determine whether they have adequate entry time policies and monitoring mechanisms.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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