PENSACOLA — At least 50 Escambia County fugitives reportedly have been arrested, following a sweep led by U.S. Marshals and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, with Okaloosa’s assistance. The effort targeted sex offenders who failed to abide by state-mandated registration requirements as registered sex offenders.
The weeklong operation — known as Operation FASTER, or Federally Assisting State Teams Enforcing Registration — also cleared more than 50 warrants.
April 1, team members met to kick off the roundup. Members of the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force include officers from Okaloosa, Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton County Sheriff's Offices and the Fort Walton Beach Police Department.
The task force also provided deputy marshals from Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee and Gainesville, and equipment to support the apprehension efforts.
Escambia was chosen because of the number of people required to register as sex offenders reportedly living in the county.
"There are over 850 people who fit that requirement here in Escambia County," inspector Dominic Guadagnoli of the task force said. "When our investigators started delving into that list and saw that more and more of those people were not doing what they were supposed to, along with the sheriff's office, we decided it was time to make an effort to find some of these 'missing' offenders."
"As usual, when governmental agencies partner in the spirit of cooperation, success is almost a given," Escambia Sheriff David Morgan said. "We are proud to have been a part of this effort, led by the U.S. Marshal's Task Force and the State Attorney's Office, in taking known sexual predators off the streets of Escambia County, thereby ensuring the safety of our children."
Operation FASTER is the first effort placing emphasis on the capture of just sex offenders.
The U.S. Marshals adopted such interagency teamwork in the early 1980s, when it combined resources and expertise in fugitive apprehension.
"The officers that work these operations live in the communities they serve,” Commander Frank Chiumento, who oversees the task force, said. “Professionally, they feel they have an obligation to the community.
“Personally, they want their neighbors and their families to feel safe — and they are doing something about it."