‘Cost doesn’t really mean anything’

Next month, the Johnson County sheriff will ask for tax money to fund trips to states such as Arizona, California and Florida, spending as much as $4,000 at once, to pick up suspects wanted for local crimes.

The sheriff’s office started the year by asking for $10,000 from the Johnson County Council, but Sheriff Doug Cox said he knows that money will quickly run out.

Cox said he expects about 10 trips in 2016, maybe more, depending on who is arrested in other states that is wanted here, he said. Last year, the sheriff’s office needed to spend nearly double that amount to nab people wanted on a warrant.

The money spent is worth it because it is needed to get people to serve jail time, pay money for what they owe or go to prison, Cox said.

More than 3,000 people are wanted on a warrant in Johnson County, meaning they did not show up to their court hearing, were charged with a crime but cannot be found or have not been arrested yet.

Most often, the people are in central Indiana, but deputies will drive as far as Florida or fly to Arizona, Oregon and California to nab someone and bring them back to Johnson County, Cox said.

On average, deputies will try to serve warrants to five people per day, Cox said. But usually deputies will need to search for the same person four or five times before finding them, he said.

People often know there is a warrant out for their arrest but don’t want to face jail time or are working on getting money together to pay their bond, Deputy David Lowe said.

If the person they are looking for isn’t at the address they have on file and deputies don’t have a vehicle or license plate number to look for, they could hit a dead end.

And if someone has gone to another state, the cost of arresting them is higher. For example, if someone is stopped for running a red light in Florida and the person is wanted in Johnson County, the officer will call to see if local police want to bring the person back to Indiana. If the sheriff’s office doesn’t respond, the person will be released, Cox said.

Any time a wanted person is found, whether they’re in central Indiana or another state, Cox wants them sent back to Johnson County, he said. The offender needs to face the crime they have been charged with, he said.

“The cost doesn’t really mean anything to me because they should be brought back to face the charges,” Cox said.

At the beginning of the year, Cox requests $10,000 in tax dollars to buy plane tickets or cover gas money when a deputy needs to go get someone who has been picked up somewhere else on a warrant. But that amount only gets the sheriff’s office so far. Recently, the sheriff’s office had to spend about $4,000 to go pick someone up in Arizona, Cox said. Last year, the sheriff’s office spent a total of $18,197 to pick up suspects from out-of-state, Cox said.

Arresting someone locally is cheaper and much more common. But deputies often can’t find the person immediately due to an incorrect address or if the person they are arresting tries to hide from the deputies.

If deputies go to a home to arrest someone, that should take less than 10 minutes, but that doesn’t always happen, Lowe said. For example, last year, a man hid between a mattress and bed frame for nearly an hour to avoid being arrested, Lowe said.

In other cases, the person no longer lives at the address. Sometimes neighbors will tell the deputies where the resident is working or if they are out of town, Lowe said.

Other times, they wait for the person to be arrested during a traffic stop or to get a tip from someone on where they are.

The sheriff’s office doesn’t have a top list of the most wanted suspects, Cox said. And crossing off everyone on their list isn’t possible, since it can change by the hour as people move or their warrants expire, sheriff’s office records department employee Megan Love said.

If at least one offender is arrested out of the five people who deputies search for each day, that is considered a success, Cox said.

By the numbers

The number of warrants that are active in Johnson County change on a daily — sometimes hourly — basis. Here’s a look at how many people were served with warrants in the last five years:

2015 – 2,816

2014– 2,945

2013 – 2,778

2012 – 2,806

2011 – 3,067

2010 – 3,145

Source:Johnson County Sheriff’s Office