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Crime & Justice

Escape from the law just by crossing the county line

A deputy with the LA Sheriff's Department checks the handcuffs of prisoners
A deputy with the LA Sheriff's Department checks the handcuffs of prisoners

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Commit a crime in America, and you'd expect that the police will hunt you down wherever you are like in the movie "The Fugitive."

But to escape the hand of justice, sometimes all you have to do is cross the county line.

Brad Heath, investigative reporter for USA Today, said it's very common for law enforcement not to pursue fugitives even if they're just a short drive away. 

"It's typically a question of resources," he says. "They either don't have or don't want to expend the time and money to go picking these people up."

In many of these cases, he explains, officers aren't even conducting a manhunt. Often, the suspect will already be in custody or pulled over by traffic cops in another jurisdiction. However, the authorities from where that person is wanted will clearly lay out how far is too far for them.

"In a lot of cases, if the answer is, 'they're not willing to travel to where I happen to have you right now,' the police let you go," Heath said.

The crimes people are wanted for range from domestic violence, sexual abuse and felony rape.

"We saw in federal records 77 homicide warrants coming from Los Angeles county in which the police said, we'll chase the suspect only as far as the state line," he said.

Calls to reform the system from within, however, are met with sighs of resignation.

"Every police chief I've talked to and every prosecutor I've talked to says, we can't spend the money to go after these people," said Heath.