WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A 9-month investigation by KTVB's partners at USA Today reveals that tens of thousands of wanted felons are escaping justice simply by crossing state lines. The information broken down county by county appears in a never before disclosed database of fugitives.
There are cases around the United States where suspects wanted for rape, kidnapping and even murder aren't being pursued by police and prosecutors if they cross state lines, even when they've already been detained.
I ran because I didn't want to sit in jail, said Thomas Terlecky, a former fugitive.
Terlecky was wanted for sexually assaulting a 14 year-old girl in Philadelphia. Police arrested him repeatedly in the Miami area, but Pennsylvania authorities never came to get him.
Lamont Pride, another former fugitive was wanted in North Carolina when he killed a police officer in New York.
It really shocked me and I was surprised they let me walk out of there with a warrant for my arrest, Pride said.
Nationwide, analysis of the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) shows authorities have decided they won't extradite, or pick up, 186,873 wanted felons.
USA Today research shows examples where fugitives routinely escape justice because police are unwilling, unable or have even determined in advance they will not pursue them in other states, even those that share a border.
It is frustrating when you run somebody and they are wanted and then it's here's your free pass, said Chief John Pelura, III, Salem, New Jersey Police.
Judicial systems are bulging at the seams, with tens of thousands of wanted criminals, but no place to put them. And in some cases, no money to pursue them across state lines-even if it's just a few miles away.
In our jurisdiction alone, we have approximately 8,000 warrants. Our jail's capacity is already maxed out, said Captain John Fetzer, Camden County Sheriff's Office.
For example, over the past decade, police in Washington D.C. were forced to release around 2,400 fugitives after holding them for extradition-only to find other police agencies were not willing to pick them up.
To charge someone, especially with a serious offense, and then later say, we're not going to bring that person back and prosecute them, I am dumbfounded. It is unconscionable, said Scott Burns, Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association.
On Wednesday on the KTVB News at Ten, we will break down Idaho's numbers for wanted fugitives that counties won't extradite if they are caught out of state.
Idaho's numbers are higher than the national average for warrants where police and prosecutors say they won't pursue a suspect. On Wednesday, hear from a prosecutor in a county where the numbers are lower and a former Idaho attorney general about why as a state Idaho may be signing more warrants without extradition requests.
To view the nationwide database, see the interactive tool below (unavailable on mobile):