There are nearly 900 wanted fugitives in Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties. These are violent people--some even charged with murder.
Staffing shortages have prevented law enforcement in the rural areas from actively pursuing the criminals until now.
FOX 7's Noelle Newton shows the reason for the change in this week’s Crime Watch.
U.S. Marshals accompany a Hays County deputy to the home of a registered sex offender for a random compliance check. The man served time for attempt to commit aggravated sexual assault.
The deputy goes through a list of questions. The information checks out. The men go to the next address to verify that a man who served time for sex crimes involving children in fact lives there.
"They can say they're living in a certain place when they aren't,” said one of the marshals.
This is the first time the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force has assisted Hays County with a sex offender compliance check. It will be one many firsts for four U.S. Marshals now permanently assigned to the area.
In addition to assisting Hays County, they will help Bastrop and Caldwell law enforcement too.
The marshals are based out of a new satellite office in Lockhart just down the hall from Caldwell County District Attorney Fred Weber.
It was Weber's idea to bring them to the rural counties. Keeping track of sex offenders isn't their only problem.
"We have two or three deputies on patrol at any given time. The county is 527 square miles. Most of their time is spent responding to 9-1-1 calls and serving the immediate needs of our citizens,” said Weber. "That simply doesn't leave any people to go out and track down people who are wanted."
Deputy U.S. Marshal Hector Gomez showed us a stack of 888 warrants for fugitives in the three counties. The subjects are wanted for charges including murders, sexual assaults, aggravated assaults and robberies. Caldwell County has the most.
"What we're seeing more and more is the fugitives from larger counties Travis County that are moving into rural areas. They know they stand a greater likelihood of going undetected in the rural areas than they do,” said Weber.
Marshals have begun to chip away at the list of fugitives. Gomez says they will also share their skills with officers and deputies who are on the streets daily.
"We're going to teach them how to chase fugitives,” said Gomez.
Fugitives will soon need a new place to hide.
"If you do not account for your responsibility there will be somebody looking for you. Knocking on doors,” said Gomez.
"There is not a safe place in Caldwell County. We don't want them here,” said Weber.