Nearly six months after revamping the Erie County Sheriff's office warrant policy, the number of outstanding warrants has dropped from 609 to 560.
Among the more high-profile warrants yet to be served includes Allen P. Williams, 23, accused of shooting a man in the head in Sandusky. Another is for a man serving prison time in Georgia for rape.
Sheriff Terry Lyons said new procedures have improved communication and follow-up, leading to an increase in attempts to serve warrants. The department replaced its one-paragraph warrant service policy with a six-page comprehensive policy in late January after a series of Register articles detailed the backlog of warrants and failure of the department to serve a warrant on a suspected child rapist.
Lyons said the department now makes attempts to arrest people locally and nationally.
The new policy "has given our employees from the sheriff's office the tools," Lyons said. This applies to working with both the prosecutor's office and other law enforcement agencies.
Now deputies are more adamant about making sure warrant information is up to date with the prosecutor's office, Lyons said.
Each call and e-mail regarding warrant communication is tracked, he said.
Since January there have been about 1,300 attempts to serve warrants, according to Capt. Paul Sigsworth. This amounts to, on average, at least three or four attempts per day, he said. Other days as many as 12 or more attempts may be made.
The sheriff's office policy states at least one attempt to serve a warrant must be made within the first 24 hours after it is issued. To date, more than 630 warrants have been served, Sigsworth said.
Unlike other law enforcement agencies, the sheriff's office deals with every court in the county, Lyons said. That includes contempt warrants and misdemeanor warrants. When it comes to prioritizing, Lyons said all warrants are important, but the severity of the crime has an influence.
"Felony warrants take priority over misdemeanors," he said.
Weekdays, Sigsworth said patrol division deputy try to assign one deputy to attempt to serve warrants.
"Ideally we would like to have two deputies at a time to serve warrants, but we don't have that luxury," he said.
Lyons said he wishes he could serve more out-of-state warrants, but with only 22 to 23 patrol deputies available at any given time, there is not enough personnel to assign someone to serve in that effect.
In January, Lyons asked county commissioners for funds for an additional deputy. He is still waiting for a reply.
"There are fewer road deputies than when I started in 1984," he said.
Lyons has seen the office lose deputies to retirement or resignations and said there are now four deputies on extended sick time.
Warrants by the Numbers
* Erie County Sheriff's office, about 560 warrants on file, oldest dating back to 1987
* Perkins Township Police, more than 1,000 warrants on file, oldest dating back to 1994
* Sandusky Police, more than 1,800 warrants on file, oldest dating back to 1997