Camden, NJ – More than 7,100 fugitives, gang members, sex offenders and violent criminals are off the streets as a result of Operation Violence Reduction7 (VR7), a six-week long U.S. Marshals-led enforcement initiative conducted across the country to reduce violent crime.
“The purpose of Operation VR7 was to protect our communities by removing the most dangerous criminals from the streets,” said U.S. Marshals Service Director Stacia Hylton. “The operation utilized a strategic approach to identify and arrest the most violent wanted felony fugitives quickly in order to see the greatest impact on public safety.”
The narrow criteria for cases adopted and investigated during Operation VR7 included fugitives wanted for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, abduction/kidnapping, sexual assault and child molestation. Additionally, VR7 investigators focused on apprehending fugitives with three or more prior felony arrests for violent crimes and wanted for narcotics, weapons offenses, assault/battery and threats. Gang members and sex offenders received high-priority for apprehension.
The U.S. Marshals strategically focused its approach through use of the agency’s multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and its fugitive task force networks at the regional and local level. The operation was concentrated in seven high density regions and core cities where the U.S. Marshals have established counter gang units. These units provided real time, ground level intelligence on criminal activity.
“Our counter gang units along with our federal, state, and local partners were able to hone in on areas with numerous outstanding warrants, and ensure that apprehension measures were deliberate and effective,” said Chief Inspector John “Buck” Smith, Operation VR7 Commander.
Between March 2 and April 10, Operation VR7 resulted in 7,127 arrests, including 750 gang members, and the seizure of 383 firearms and more than 69 kilograms of illegal narcotics. Individual charges included 519 for homicide; 922 for weapons; 1,888 for assault; 583 for sexual assault; 1,093 for robbery; and 2,654 for narcotics.
“By taking these dangerous fugitives off the streets, we hope people feel safer in their communities,” said Hylton. “Many of these fugitives we arrested were repeat offenders, who average eight prior arrests and three prior convictions for violent crimes.”
Additionally, in its ongoing support to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Marshals Service recovered 10 missing children during Operation VR7.
The impact of the operation also benefited surrounding cities and small rural areas outside the targeted regions that faced difficulties dealing with criminal activity perpetrated by these violent offenders.
“A focus of this operation was deploying manpower and resources to address law enforcement needs normally overwhelmed or limited,” said Hylton.
The concept behind interagency law enforcement operations such as Operation VR7 evolved largely from regional and district task forces. Historically local, state and federal agencies have worked closely together to find and apprehend dangerous fugitives. The U.S. Marshals adopted interagency teamwork in the early 1980s, when they combined their resources and expertise in fugitive apprehension with local law enforcement to capitalize on their knowledge and unique insight of the street level crime and violence, and the offenders responsible for it. Operation VR7 continues this tradition.
"The U.S. Marshals Service supports the criminal justice system by apprehending violent felony fugitives, with our law enforcement partners at all levels of government,” said Hylton. “The success of Operation VR7 affirmed the commitment of the men and women who are sworn to protect and serve. I am proud to serve with them as they make our communities safer.”