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Un-served Arrest Warrants: An Exploratory Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2004
34 pages

This document presents research on whether better service of warrants could prevent the incidence of violent crime; it lays out the purpose for conducting the research, the research methodology, distribution and service of warrants, arrests and outstanding warrants, and conclusions.


This report describes an exploratory study on the extent to which increasing the effort to serve warrants may be an effective public safety strategy against violent crime. The exploratory research is based on the following four hypotheses: the largest single group of outstanding warrants at any time is composed of bench warrants for failure to appear in court, and the largest group of underlying charges is composed of traffic citations; violent crimes constitute a small percentage of the outstanding warrants; police warrant squads give priority to warrants related to violent and other felony crimes; the persons charged with most violent crimes do not have outstanding warrants other than those associated with the crime event for which the warrant was issued. The researchers examined two sets of data in order to understand the potential relationship between outstanding warrants and violent crime; the first set included warrants that were active in the 2000 to 2001 time period, and the second set of data informs the question of whether more effort to serve warrants could affect the incidence of violent crime. Findings indicated that the majority of the warrants were for non-violent offenses, and that police prioritize their time to serve warrants on violent offenders first. The report suggests that the problem of serving warrants is a resource allocation issue, and that police departments simply lack the staff required to serve warrants along with complete regular police work; it states that there is a case for additional research on optimization, and that a study should be constructed and funded that would find Pareto-Optimal solutions to mixing types of warrants service for types of crimes/offenders.

Date Published: April 1, 2004