LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) tracks down America’s most wanted criminals. It’s the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the nation. The USMS focuses on capturing fugitives, but it also provides secret witness protection and federal court security.

We joined in the hunt in Central Arkansas recently to see how the U.S. Marshals Eastern Arkansas Fugitive Task Force collaborates with local police to get the bad guys off the street.

“We fully expected this guy to try to escape through the back window,” says Kevin Sanders, U.S. Marshals Supervisory Deputy, on the scene of an arrest.

Before setting out across the state, deputy U.S. marshals gather intel on each case and talk to people who know Arkansas’ most wanted.

They assist local police agencies when all resources drain out.

When credible information comes in, the team preps and makes a plan.

“He’s known to carry a gun all the time. He sells dope out there,” says a USMS deputy about one suspect.

“A lot of times they’re doing the same crimes they were previously charged and convicted of. So they know the game,” Sanders explains. “The only problem is, is they’re just not that good enough at it.”

Once all the preparations are made to catch a fugitive, then it’s go time.

“We’re trusting each other with our lives, so it’s actually the most important part of this thing, to make sure everyone knows what their job is,” says Dillon Nichols, Deputy U.S. Marshal.

Our crew spent nearly 24 hours riding along with the U.S. Marshals Eastern Arkansas Fugitive Task Force. Our first stop, North Little Rock, where they surround a shooting suspect’s house. At first it looks like no one’s home, but they soon learn their guy is nearby, riding his bike. U.S. Marshals make the arrest and and him over to North Little Rock Police.

“I mean it’s a great partnership,” says Sgt. Brian Dedrick with the North Little Rock Police Department. He credits the task force with helping his department get the job done. Sgt. Dedrick says the federal marshals are able to reach areas outside their jurisdiction.

The USMS made 400 arrests for North Little Rock Police in 2015 and are on track to do the same this year.

“They don’t give up until they find them, so we’re serving warrants in days now versus in months before,” says Sgt. Dedrick.

Within the next hour, U.S. Marshals are on the move again.

“U.S. Marshals, come to the door now or it’s coming down!,” they shout.

The waiting game gets frustrating at times. You’d be amazed where criminals hide. One was found in a hollow dresser, a dryer, even in the stairs. One suspect kicked a hole through a hotel room wall to escape and a 2016 chase ended when a wanted man drove his car into the Arkansas River.

“If that person’s name comes across our desk. You can count on it that we will be coming,” Sanders adds.

Even if the suspect isn’t home, these fugitive hunters don’t stop searching.

In another case, the search was for a parolee wanted on drug charges and failure to report. Deputy U.S. Marshals find meth on him and inside his home.

Once they make an arrest, deputy marshals move on to their next case. They stop to regroup, gather more intel, and prepare to make their next move.

In most situations, those running from the U.S. Marshals surrender peacefully. Other times, criminals make it dangerous.

“Sometimes these fugitives will hide out at their parents’ addresses or friend’s addresses knowing they have small children and knowing they’re putting them in danger,” explains Sanders. He trains his task force to be ready, in all sorts of scenarios, to make sure everyone involved is safe. For anyone running from the law, it’s only a matter of time.

“Just do the right thing, turn yourself in and then put it behind you. And if not, we’re going to come after you,” says Sanders.

The U.S. Marshals Eastern Arkansas Fugitive Task Force partners with Conway, Little Rock and North Little Rock Police, Arkansas Community Correction and Arkansas State Police.

U.S. Marshals Eastern Arkansas Fugitive Task Force Notable Arrests for Jan. 1, 2016 to Nov. 18, 2016

  • 24 Arrests: Capital Murder, 1st Degree Murder, Homicide, Criminal Attempt to Commit Murder/Homicide
  • 16 Arrests: Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault on a Minor
  • 29 Arrests: Failure to Register as a Sex Offender
  • 55 Arrests: Aggravated Assault, Battery
  • 33 Arrests: Aggravated Robbery, Forced Residential Burglary
  • 6 Arrests: Escape, Harboring Escapee/Fugitive
  • 6 Arrests: Kidnapping
  • Seized: 57 Guns so far this year (many were stolen)

360 total arrests through November 18, 2016.