By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — A new county Web site listing people wanted by police has been flooded by the curious and the nervous since it was unveiled a couple weeks ago.
About 4,000 people visited the site a total of 6,000 times since late last month. About 10,000 people are listed on the site for misdemeanor warrants that date back to the 1980s. With a click of the button, neighbors, employers and anyone else can search the site to see who is wanted by police.
The warrant Web site was launched in hopes that offenders who see their names will take care of their legal obligations before police come knocking on their door and cart them off to jail, Snohomish County prosecutor Janice Ellis said.
The site is part of an effort to cut the backlog of warrants in the county’s court system. Anyone who sees their name on the list should contact a district court and make arrangements to go before a judge to take care of the warrant, Ellis said.
Between Oct. 22 and Oct. 26, nearly 150 warrants from Evergreen District Court in Monroe were pulled out of the system because they were no longer valid or people went to court to resolve their warrants.
A vast majority were dismissed by prosecutors because the warrants were old and the scofflaw been charged with another crime, said Evergreen District Court Judge Patricia Lyon. In some cases, witnesses, including the arresting police officer, are no longer in the area, or the offenses so minor spending resources couldn’t be justified, she said.
Lyon didn’t know if anyone had contacted the courts about a deceased relative on the list. Some people on the site died years ago.
Court officials and deputy prosecutors have been working all summer to review thousands of warrants to bring them up to date, said Lyon, who presides over the county’s four district courts.
Some of the offenses date back 20 years. The oldest person being sought is 89; the youngest is a 15-year-old boy.
Lyon said she recently changed her policy about dealing with requests to quash warrants. She now requires the defendant to appear in person rather than allowing a the request to be made in a letter.
“I’m seeing a lot of cases getting resolved that day,” Lyon said. “A few people have not shown up. It tells me they’re not real serious about taking care of matters.”
Since the Web site went live, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line received more than a dozen tips from anonymous callers who reported where people on the list could be found.
Acting on one of those tips, deputies learned that a woman with an outstanding warrant is in jail in Spokane. Once freed there, she’ll be sent to Snohomish County to answer to the warrant. Deputies continue to follow up on other leads.
A warrant sweep last week led to four arrests, although police had hoped for more. The sweep focused on people wanted on warrants from Evergreen District Court in Monroe. The sweep taught police that many of the warrants contain old or outdated addresses for wanted people.
“Many of these folks are quite transient and it’s very difficult to track them,” sheriff’s chief Kevin Prentiss said.
The next time police attempt to round up people with outstanding district court warrants they’ll be sure to spend more time beforehand confirming addresses, he said.
Court officials and police won’t say when the next sweep will be and again are encouraging people to visit the county Web site and take care of their warrants.
“It’s definitely in their best interest to contact us and take care of their legal issues before we find them; otherwise, it can be very expensive and inconvenient to them,” Prentiss said.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.