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409 fugitives arrested in joint law enforcement operation

Updated Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.


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Local, state and federal law enforcement agents announced today that they have arrested 409 violent criminals since June 1 in a joint effort to get felony fugitives off the street.

The arrests were a result of the Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally program, known as Operation FALCON. The month-long joint operation netted one homicide arrest and dozens of arrests for narcotics, sex offenses, abuse, burglary and gang-related crimes.

The operation was integral in several high-profile apprehensions this summer, including the arrest of Dwayne Romero, an alleged gang member wanted for murder, and Richard Dean Stephen, a school bus driver arrested June 16 on seven counts of lewdness with a minor under the age of 14 and three counts of sexual assault, officials said.

“My office looks forward to prosecuting as many of these individuals as we possibly can, specifically the most violent offenders who belong behind bars. This operation was the first step to making that happen,” said Gregory Brower, U.S. Attorney for Nevada.

The June effort was FALCON’s largest and most successful operation in Nevada, U.S. Marshal Gary Orton said. Officials said they were able to draw upon experiences from past sweeps to pull more fugitives off the street this year.

“We had more agencies participating and I think just by the nature of having the operation yearly, we (are) able to move forward very year and we have a tremendous amount of support,” Nevada Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Roxanna Lea Irwin said.

Enforcement officials said they were able to capitalize on increased manpower and organization to make all 409 arrests without significant incident. Officials said no shots were fired and no agents or suspects were killed.

Brower commended the courage and hard work of the agents who execute the operation.

“Even what we might call routine arrests are, of course, a potentially lethal situation,” Brower said. “This year’s operation was once again performed without any shots fired, without any fatalities, but again, let me emphasize that’s not because these are not dangerous operations. They are, and the men and women who execute them … need to be commended for their service.”

Lee and others also commended the extensive preparation and behind-the-scenes work that went into the arrests. Officials said preparation for the June sweep started six weeks out, with agents going through more than 6,000 warrants and targeting the most dangerous and elusive violent felony offenders. The process for tracking down and arresting the fugitives is expansive as well, with everyone from uniformed officers to in-the-know taxi drivers contributing to the operation, officials said.

“A lot of people think to arrest a criminal you just go and knock on his door. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and that’s where we rely on our sources (and) on officer training to get this accomplished,” Irwin said.

The U.S. Marshals Services provides much of the funding and research tools to help local and state law enforcement agencies target the most violent local fugitives. Officials said 89 percent of the arrests stemmed from state or local warrants.

This was the sixth incarnation of Operation FALCON, which is led by the U.S. Marshals Service and has resulted in 91,086 arrests and cleared 117,874 warrants nationwide since it was launched in 2005, officials said.

“The goal of Operation FALCON is simple – to make communities safer,” John F. Clark, director of the U.S. Marshals Service, said in a statement. “Each time we wrap up a FALCON operation in any location, there are less dangerous individuals – and fewer threats to the community – than before we arrived there. That is very gratifying.”

Many local enforcement agencies partnered with the U.S. Marshals for the effort, including Metro Police, the Boulder City Police Department, the City of Las Vegas Detention and Enforcement, the Henderson Police Department, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office and the Clark County School District Police Department.

Officials said they hope to conduct another sweep sometime this later year, most likely around Halloween, which is when they typically target child predators and sex offenders.

“We have a large number of fugitives who haven’t been located and we’ll continue to work on those,” U.S. Marshal Gary Orton said.

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