300-plus fugitives arrested by Maricopa, Pima, Pinal authorities

An effort involving law enforcement agencies in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties has apprehended 307 fugitives since March 2, authorities said Monday.

“These criminals are responsible for an inordinate number of crimes in Arizona,” David Gonzales, U.S. marshal for Arizona, said at a news conference announcing the arrests.

Operation Justice targeted those wanted for crimes including aggravated assault, drug offenses, homicide and sex offenses.

This operation, which involved 26 agencies, was announced on the first day of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, an observance that began in 1981.

Gonzales said most of the fugitives arrested are career criminals who have two to three convictions and have spent time in prison.

“In the last seven years that the U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona has been conducting these interagency fugitive apprehension programs, more than 35,000 felons have been arrested,” he said.

Gonzales said the arrests were made without incident.

Steve Campbell, chief of police for El Mirage, said that these operations are a huge benefit to smaller cities that have fairly limited resources.

“As a smaller agency, our resources are fairly limited, but we continue to participate in these type of tasks forces because we know through the state, local and federal partnerships we all have to work together,” he said.

Tom Atteberry, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona, said that the 33 weapons seized during the operation will be tested to see if they were used in other crimes.

Forty-five of those arrested on drug charges were known gang members, Gonzales said. He said street gang members are causing major problems for the agencies and that getting them behind bars is a big step forward.

Gonzales said he would like to do more than one of these operations per year but noted that it’s difficult for some departments to commit manpower.

“It takes a lot of resources and police departments have to pull from other units,” he said.