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Posted: 6/19/2003 10:39:53 AM EDT
Bounty hunters captured 23,000 fugitives in 2002 TRACKING: Formally called bail enforcement agents, they say most of their arrests are peaceful. 06/19/2003 By ERIN AUERBACH THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE They wear suits, jeans or Hawaiian shirts. They also carry guns and chase fugitives around the map. And many are certified to do it after three days of training. These men and women are bail enforcement agents, also called fugitive recovery agents. But they're better known as "bounty hunters." They are people like Duane "Dog" Chapman, who made headlines Wednesday when he captured convicted rapist and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico. California has about 2,000 of the 14,000 to 17,000 agents in the United States. In all, bail enforcement agents arrested about 23,000 fugitives nationwide last year, said Bob Burton, 63, founder of the National Association of Bail Enforcement Agents in Tucson, Ariz. Burton has been in the profession 25 years. The process When an arrested suspect posts bail, he or she must pay 10 percent of the amount while the bail bonds company covers the rest. If the defendant skips court proceedings, it's called bail forfeiture. Under forfeiture, the bail company has 180 days to find the fugitive and recover its money. Otherwise, it must absorb the loss, said Dean Cates, a fugitive recovery agent in Riverside. The bail companies hire agents to arrest the fugitive suspects. Bounty hunters have wide leeway to operate because suspects have signed contracts that strip them of many rights if they forfeit bail. That contract allows agents to track down the fugitives, usually for 10 percent of the bail amount, Burton said in a phone interview from his Tucson office. "I have broader rights than any cop in the country. When the criminal signs a bail-bond contract, he waived his rights, gave us the right of extradition to enter his home and arrest him," he added. Although boredom drove Burton into the bounty-hunting business, the former insurance broker said an agent's typical work isn't glamorous. "Our arrests are much more peaceful than the cops. Cops are much more macho," he said. Cates, a 59-year-old retired police officer, agrees. "We try to calmly approach the defendants and tell them that we've been sent by the (bail insurance) company." Cates avoids the title "bounty hunter." He and others try to distinguish certified agents from some bounty hunters who operate vigilante-style. "I think it's a term that has gotten some bad press in the past, so we're trying to get away from that," Cates said in a phone interview. Cates has been arresting bail jumpers for 2 1/2 years. He also has worked as a private investigator. He is allowed to carry a gun because of his law-enforcement background, he said. A gun card allows anyone to have an exposed weapon, said Cates, who works for California Asurety Investigations, a company that contracts with Aladdin Bail Bonds. "The bail bondsmen or anybody that they authorize on their behalf can legally pursue a fugitive," Cates said. Getting certification Most states, including California, require some sort of agent certification. Burton's school, the National Association of Bail Enforcement, offers a three-day certification program for $395. Instructors teach regulations and the business of bail bonds, as well as how to become a contract bounty hunter, Burton said. "We don't teach the course to satisfy the state. We do it to satisfy the industry. Ninety-nine percent of all of these kind of seminars are taught in three days or less," he said. "We teach you just enough to keep you out of trouble." The average bounty hunter is a 36-year-old male who has some military experience and some business sense, Burton said. But Mackenzie Green, an agent since 1985, said a woman can be the best man for this job. "The name of the game is finding the person, and in a lot of ways, women are more effective because we're more aware of our surroundings," said Green, 60, in a phone interview from her San Francisco office. ------------------------------------------------ What do the LEO's on the board think of these guys? It seems as though they catch a lot of scumbags who've jumped bail. Also, I was watching one of the news programs a few months back where Bounty Hunters were pasing around the idea of going after parole violators and assorted dirtbags.But, LE poo-poo'd the idea.
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