Reps. Kristi Noem and Trey Gowdy this week introduced the No Haven for Dangerous Fugitives Act, which closes a critical public-safety loophole. More specifically, under current policy, certain individuals wanted on felony charges – including violent crimes – can flee to Indian Country and evade arrest. It was an issue discussed extensively when Gowdy joined Noem in South Dakota to meet with area law enforcement about local drug crime and policing challenges. The Noem-Gowdy proposal that resulted from the meeting would give federal law enforcement the authority, when necessary, to enter Indian Country and apprehend the defendant.

“Today, we have fugitives hiding in plain sight,” said Noem. “The way the system is set up violent criminals can use Indian Country as a haven to evade law enforcement. That policy poses a serious and concerning public safety threat to tribal communities. The No Haven for Dangerous Fugitives Act closes this dangerous loophole once and for all. I thank Rep. Gowdy for taking the time to hear from South Dakota law enforcement about this threat to public safety and then collaborate on a workable solution.”

“The priority should always be on victims of crime and public safety,” said Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom.  “Law enforcement faces jurisdictional obstacles that hinder our efforts while fugitives roam freely from one jurisdiction to the next, oftentimes continuing to commit more crimes.  It is time to hold fugitives accountable and stand up for victims.”

“Too many victims of crime in Pennington County over the past decades have had to hear that they would not get their day in Court because the offender was beyond the reach of even federal law,” said Mark Vargo, Pennington County State’s Attorney.  “By recognizing tribal borders as being the equivalent of state borders, the No Haven for Dangerous Fugitives Act takes a huge step toward ensuring that no one is beyond the law.  We will no longer have to wait for a new victim before an offender can be brought to justice.  This means that all of South Dakota’s communities will be that much safer.”

“This simple but important adjustment to legislation will correct an unintentional flaw that has contributed to a disparate degree of Public Safety on and near tribal lands,” said Karl Jegeris, Chief of Police at the Rapid City Police Department. “Ultimately, it will create an opportunity for reduced victimization by holding offenders accountable.”

Under current law, federal law enforcement may apprehend a suspect who allegedly committed a crime in South Dakota, for example, and then flees to another state in an attempt to evade arrest. Federal law enforcement may also apprehend a suspect who allegedly committed a crime in South Dakota and then flees to an Indian Reservation in another state.

Federal law enforcement currently do not, however, have the authority to apprehend a suspect who allegedly committed a crime in South Dakota and then flees to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In addition to denying victims and their families justice, the communities to which the defendant flees are put in jeopardy. The No Haven for Dangerous Fugitives Act simply allows federal law enforcement to apprehend a suspect who allegedly committed a crime in South Dakota and then flees to an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 

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