U.S. law enforcement officials announced a major nationwide criminal sweep Thursday that led to the arrest of more than 10,000 fugitives wanted for a variety of crimes including murder and rape.
The weeklong roundup began on April 4 and was given the codename of "Operation Falcon". It involved the joint efforts of more than 900 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies around the country.
In all, the dragnet caught more than 10,000 fugitives, including more than 150 suspects wanted for murder and more than 500 people wanted on rape or sexual assault charges.
The criminal sweep also led to the capture of more than 150 suspected gang members and 100 sex offenders who had failed to register with their local communities as required by law.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a news conference in Washington that this is the first time state, local and federal agencies had coordinated efforts to go after a large number of fugitives on a nationwide scale.
"There clearly are bad guys out on the streets that need to be rounded up," he said. "This was a very successful effort. More needs to be done. We understand that and I think we are heartened by these results."
Attorney General Gonzales said more than 70 percent of those taken into custody had been arrested previously for violent crimes.
The fugitive operation was coordinated by the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, Ben Reyna.
"I think that is why this type of initiative is so critically important," he explained. "It allows us to have the force multiplier [multiple agencies involved] and focus on the most dangerous and violent individuals as they are prioritized by each individual community."
The U.S. Marshals Service was given more money and authority by Congress in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks to hunt down fugitives as part of the new focus on homeland security.