Bexar County has 24,191 active warrants. How has it cut that number down?

Felony warrants down 13 percent compared to last summer

SAN ANTONIO – A revamped effort to track down fugitives has led to a more than 8 percent decrease in the number of Bexar County criminal warrants compared to this time last year, according to court records provided to the KSAT 12 Defenders.

The county's two-pronged approach included the Bexar County Sheriff's Office increasing the number of deputies assigned to its Fugitive Apprehension Unit, as well as the courts making better use of a law that allows officials to remove a defendant from a docket if his or her death can be verified.

"There's some where people pass away. We don't expect them to show up," said County Court Judge John Longoria, who also serves as the administrative judge for the county courts.

Longoria said he reached out to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar soon after Salazar took office in 2017 to discuss the county's massive warrant backlog.

"We talked to the sheriff and he has responded," said Longoria.

When KSAT 12 interviewed the judge last month, Longoria provided figures showing that 48 percent of the cases on his docket involve defendants who are no longer showing up for court hearings.

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As recently as last summer, county officials, including District Attorney Nico LaHood, said the county needed a better system to clear out warrants attached to people no longer alive.

Since then, a stronger effort has been made to verify a defendant's death and then forward that information to the court associated with the warrant so that it can be removed from the system, according to county officials.

Deputies assigned to FAU said that has resulted in a much more accurate fugitive list.

The team that KSAT 12 rode along with earlier this month made cleared five warrants during a single shift, including three tied to drunken-driving cases.

"Those are the cases that are very problematic, in that they can be the next person that does a DWI and kills a family, children, old folks like me," said Longoria.

"I agree. I mean, DWIs, they plague Bexar County streets," said Deputy Arthur Williams, a six-year veteran of BCSO assigned to FAU.

The county's figure of 26,382 total warrants last summer has decreased by more than 8 percent to 24,191, according to figures provided to the Defenders earlier this month.

Although misdemeanor warrants decreased 6.6 percent year to year after FAU increased its targeting of lower level offenses, the county has actually made its biggest progress in clearing out felony warrants.

The county's figure of 6,982 felony warrants last summer has decreased 13 percent to 6,075, according to recent figures.

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