Strike team comes out strong from pandemic with 'party's over' message to criminals

Posted at 6:23 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 20:23:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike team (VFAST) held a briefing Thursday to talk about their latest arrests of fugitives in the state.

By the numbers, 70 adult probation and parole fugitives this year, and over 300 in the last 3 years, have been caught by the the VFAST team; but they admit that those numbers slowed during the pandemic.

"We're not talking about your petty small level criminal and low-level drug dealers; these are the most violent and dangerous criminals in our community” U.S. Marshall Matt Harris said during the press conference.

The VFAST team is made up of 20+ agencies, including the U.S. Marshals and the Utah Department of Corrections. They all came together Thursday to reaffirm efforts to the community.

A big part of their efforts, and what was talked about Thursday, was those who are fugitives from the Utah Department of Corrections Adult Probation and Parole division.

The team outlined that, right now, they are facing some difficulties, and numbers are lower than previous years according to the team.

Mainly, that these they go after have on average already been arrested 10.3 times.

“An example of that is a man who was recently arrested for a bank robbery, a string of bank robberies who had 68 prior arrests.” said Harris. “Too often, these violent criminals are brought on state charges and are not detained and are free to commit more crimes until we are asked to arrest them over and over and over again.”

What is sometimes called the “revolving doors” of the justice system by the data is happening more and more in the state of Utah.

Something the team said is a “multifaceted” issue and that they work very hard to do what they can to help.

“We do our part, we expect the system to do its part” said Harris, which was echoed by Jim Hudspeth, Deputy Executive Director of the Utah Department of Corrections who said, “That’s why this relationship is so important.”

The Department of Corrections also addressed those concerns, saying the pandemic has slowed efforts.

“It was difficult, there was restrictions,“ Hudspeth said, adding that even though their numbers of apprehension were smaller, that “I am proud of the work we have done, and I think that is our reason for being here today.”

That sentiment echoed by the U.S. Marshals, with Harris saying, “weighing public safety where there is a risk going out and getting a fugitive, and unfortunately that’s nature of where we have been the last year.”

For these two agencies, and the rest of those that make up the VFAST team, now that the pandemic is coming to an end and their resources are at full staff, the message to these wanted fugitives is they are ready.

This message said best by Harris who said to anyone they are looking for, and haven’t caught yet, “If you’ve had a party this last year… party’s over.”