Sheriff's department boosts efforts to reel in wanted criminals

There are 20,000 active warrants in Marion County.
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There's a growing number of offenders wanted on outstanding warrants. 13 Investigates is focused on the increased effort to bring them in.

Warrant teams from the Marion County Sheriff's Department narrow in on their target. Up to the minute intelligence suggests the person is home, but won't answer the door.

A sheriff's deputy yells, "Go!" before kicking in the front door. A stream of officers rush inside with guns drawn, each calling out "Sheriff's office with a warrant! Sheriff's Office with a warrant!"

For two days, 13 Investigates tracked alongside deputies as they worked to find criminals hiding from the law, both criminal and civil cases.

Right now in Marion County, there are 20,000 active warrants for suspects on the run or wanted in court.

"We at least want to make a couple of attempts on every warrant as quickly as we can and then we go back when we have time and start working on older warrants," explained Capt. Jim Wampler as his team drove from one location to the next.

Wampler sees 45-60 new felony warrants everyday. Everything from suspected armed robbers and violent drug dealers, to child support deadbeats and alleged prostitutes.

"Uh,," said the woman in handcuffs when she saw 13 Investigates' cameras as she was led from the house.

"They thrive on putting bad guys in jail," said Sheriff John Layton.

13 Investigates has learned the number of warrants served on violent offenders has jumped nearly 30 percent over the last two years and about 93 percent since 2008.

With no patrol responsibilities since the merger to create IMPD, the Marion County Sheriff's Department now has a more defined focus.

A warrant team recently showed up in Anna Wheatcraft's southeast side neighborhood. She and her mother are glad to see the re-enforcements.

"I have four kids that I worry about everyday," said Wheatcraft.

"People don't care anymore you know. They go out and do things and they don't care. They don't want to pay the consequences," added her mother, Mona.

Neighborhoods, businesses and even halfway houses are on the list and nothing is off limits.

"Carjacking B-felony, robbery C-felony, and intimidation D-felony," were the charges one officer read to a suspect they finally caught up with.

But trying to capture those who don't want to go to jail isn't as easy as it seems and it brings certain danger to the job.

"We had people in chases, we had people in crawl spaces, attics, we had guns, we had drugs, we had dogs," said Wampler about the wide range of circumstances his deputies face day to day.

At its current pace, the department expects to top 4,000 executed warrants on violent offenders by year's end.

Sheriff Layton says he's not concerned about jail overcrowding, at least not yet.

If you know of whereabouts of a wanted suspect, call Crime Stoppers at 262-TIPS.