DeWine’s task force needs to step it up on warrants

Too often, we hear of violent crimes committed by people who ought to have been behind bars instead of finding new victims. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wants to do something about that.

Last week, DeWine announced he has created a task force to look into how arrest warrants are handled in Ohio. His decision, within a few weeks of taking office, was spurred by an investigation conducted by the Columbus Dispatch.

Reporters there checked on open arrest warrants — those not yet served — in the state’s six largest urban counties and in six suburban counties. Believe it or not, in that area alone, there were more than 300,000 cases in which warrants remained open by late last year.

It gets worse. Of that total, more than 23,000 warrants were for people accused in crimes of violence or involving weapons. Nearly 10,000 warrants were in domestic violence cases.

Why are so many people accused of violent crimes not apprehended quickly? One factor is the enormous number of warrants law enforcement agencies are called upon to serve. But another is sometimes police officers and sheriff’s deputies do not use all the tools at their disposal. The Dispatch found law enforcement agencies in the area studied often do not enter warrants into the national Law Enforcement Automated Data System.

Failure to use LEADS can mean officers and deputies outside an immediate area do not arrest people who are wanted because they are not aware.

“I think it’s infuriating that there can be a warrant for someone, particularly for a serious crime, that’s fallen through the cracks,” DeWine told the Dispatch.

Clearly, DeWine’s task force needs to learn why some law enforcement agencies do not have better systems of prioritizing warrants. That could solve a large portion of the problem. One way or another, it is a serious concern.

Let us hope the governor can have as much success addressing it as he did when, while attorney general, he tackled the outrage of thousands of rape kits sitting in evidence rooms without ever having been tested. As he put it then, failing to do so could be “a matter of life and death.”