KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When it comes to fighting violent crime, members of the US Marshals Service claim they often go after "the worst-of-the-worst."
Kansas City, Missouri, was one of 10 cities across the country chosen for Operation North Star II because of its high number of homicides and shootings.
During a 30 day period, the US Marshals Service arrested 62 people in Kansas City, and a total of 833 fugitives in all 10 cities.
The operation focused on suspects "wanted for the most serious, violent, and harmful offenses including homicide, forcible sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault."
Deputies also prioritized serving warrants to "individuals using firearms in their crimes, or who exhibited risk factors associated with violence."
Investigators also say they confiscated 181 firearms, more than $229,000 in currency and more than 160 kilograms of illegal narcotics.
Other cities participating in Operation North Star 2 included Albuquerque, New Mexico; Buffalo, New York; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Oakland, California and Puerto Rico.
To give the public a better idea of who they are, what they do, and what Operation North Star II is all about, deputies allowed KSHB 41 to spend a day with them.
During our ride along, we witnessed field crews conducting surveillance and arresting three different suspects.
To better understand what we saw, we also sat down with the acting US Marshal to explain how this operation represents their day to day operations, along with the changes and challenges they face when it comes to cracking down on crime.
Below is some of the conversation KSHB 41 Anchor Caitlin Knute had with Scott Seeling, the acting US Marshal.
Operation North Star II
Knute: What is the operation that you’re currently working on and why is this necessary in Kansas City?
Seeling: Operation North Star II is a national enforcement initiative that’s primarily focusing on the most violent offenders in our community.
So, we believe if you focus on those offenders, which can be a small number in your community, but we believe they are committing the most crimes in the community.
So, we will go through our investigative process of selecting fugitive warrants to work. And, hopefully, by removing those folks from the community it has an impact on violent crime.
Dangers of the job
Knute: It seems so you have a very dangerous job, it’s certainly something I couldn’t do. How dangerous is your job?
Seeling: Anytime you are looking for violent felons on the street, and removing them from the community with the potential of them going to prison for the rest of their life, it’s very, very dangerous.
Knute: So, walk me through what is the typical morning like on a mission? When you go in, you're trying to apprehend someone. What does that process look like?
Seeling: So we may go out and do some surveillance in an area looking for a fugitive; we may rely on some of our informants if they may know where the fugitive is.
A lot of pre-operational planning goes into the take down and the arrest to make sure that everybody is safe — our officers and the community and we execute that warrant at the best time that’s available to us.
Knute: How does this differ from other law enforcement, say police or sheriff's deputies?
Seeling: I would say we're different in that we’re not uniformed like local police or county police, and we don’t investigate the same things that they do like calls for service.
Like, if you were to call 911, you’re going to get a sheriff's deputy or a police officer in uniform. We’re not in uniform, we are covert. Not under cover, but covert.
And we have a very different mission. We apprehend fugitive warrants that are issued by the federal court, we assist state and local agencies with their warrants if they ask us to do so and we also investigate sex offenders who do not register and cross county and state lines.
Knute: You kind of go after the worst of the worst, typically your focus is on violent crimes. Has that changed with the rise of fentanyl on the streets?
Seeling: So, fentanyl and violent crime are hand-in-hand, so you're going to find drugs and violence together. US Marshals Service primarily focuses on violent crime, and we do combat fentanyl through our participation in task forces.
Knute: Do you have enough bodies to get the job done? I know the Kansas City police have been understaffed and they’re worried about recruitment. Has that impacted you as well?
Seeling: We were also understaffed as an agency nationally. I’ll even say I could use a few more bodies here in Kansas City.
Knute: One of the things the community has called for when it comes to local enforcement is body cameras. Do you currently wear body cameras?
Seeling: We currently do not have body cameras. Our agency nationally is piloting some body cameras in six select locations right now.
So, there was a policy that is in the works at the department of justice level. But yes, body cameras are coming for us. I don’t know when, I don’t know when the funds will be available, I don’t know when the policy will be complete. But we will be wearing body cameras.
Knute: Why haven’t you had them up until now?
Seeling: It’s been working through the challenges of wearing a body camera for federal agents. So, there are several different missionaries I talked about.
So when would it be appropriate to turn on the body camera and turn off the body camera? And some of our sensitive investigative techniques, we would not want that on the body camera or wouldn’t be able to put on a body camera.
Knute: A lot of people think about the Marshals, they think of just knocking down the door and storming in. How often does that happen?
Seeling: Not as often as one would think. We train very regularly, we train very hard on executing warrants in the safest way possible to our people, to protect members of the community and the people that we are arresting.
Knute: When it comes to your job, what other misconceptions do people have? Is there anything that you hope someone who is watching at home might get out of this interview or might learn as a result of listening to this?
Seeling: We have a lot of different missions that are not as exciting as the fugitive investigative mission.
But we do produce prisoners for federal court, we do investigate threats against judges, we do protect federal judges, and we do seize and sell assets, that’s probably the less exciting part of our job. But, I think people should know that there’s a lot more to US Marshals than just arresting people.