KING COUNTY -- The U.S. Marshals led Western District of Washington Violent Offender Task Force goes after the worst of the worst -- tracking down the most dangerous criminals in our communities.
They recently wrapped-up Operation: Back to School -- a collaborative effort with local and state law enforcement to target sex offenders, gang members and violent felons with drug histories in King County.
One of the fugitives had been featured on Washington's Most Wanted, so we joined them to show you how they follow-up on your tips to keep our communities safe.
Tracking down wanted sex offenders can often be a challenge. Many are homeless, living on the streets, like Daniel Jacob Smith, a convicted child molester wanted for a new domestic violence crime.
Somebody had seen him here around S. Holgate St. and Utah Ave. S. in the SODO neighborhood of Seattle, so task force members went into a tent hoping to flush him out. Turns out, they had just missed him, but they did locate the tent where he'd been staying. They didn't find Smith that day, but when word spread that there was a reward for his arrest, another tip came the very next day and he was caught.
“We arrested 9 non-compliant sex offenders. We arrested 16 known gang members and 19 people on various related crimes,” said Acting U.S. Marshal Jacob Green. He says the goal of Operation: Back to School was to reduce violent crime in King County. "We're not looking just for numbers, or what we call stats, we're looking to make an impact in improving community safety, so just arresting one of those individuals greatly improves the safety of the community,” said Green.
The key to the operation's success is the Marshals’ partnerships with local law enforcement.
Officers with Seattle Police Department’s Sex Assault Unit were looking for a rape suspect. I joined them as we fanned-out through an unsanctioned homeless encampment underneath the I-90 freeway, where the suspect had been spotted. We can't name him, because he hasn't been charged yet. Detectives want to interview him first. As they approached each tent, the officers respectfully and calmly sought the cooperation of those living here—and it paid off in information. Even though the suspect wasn't there, most people there were willing to speak with us once they heard why we were searching. It's a lot of ground to cover and though we didn't locate the suspect that day, the Marshals won't stop looking. “Some agencies don't have the resources to dedicate detectives, investigators, or officers to locate the suspects that they're investigating, but that's where the task force comes in. That's one of our sole missions is to locate people, so we're able to work together collaboratively towards a common goal, which is to bring someone back to justice,” said U.S. Marshals Senior Inspector Michael Leigh.
CLICK HERE to see The U.S. Marshals Western District Of Washington Violent Offender Task Force Top Ten Most Wanted