by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--Their job is to track down and capture sex offenders, who've failed to register after being convicted.
The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force is part of the Western District of Texas of the U.S. Marshals Office. They've made it clear, it's not a job they take lightly.
The agents that make up this Task Force were called the "true guardians of our communities." When you consider that the Western District of Texas stretches out about 94,000 square miles. So it stands to reason that catching these sexual predators is very much a team effort.
"We can't do it alone. We have not been doing it alone. That's why we invited everybody that is behind me, here today. It's a team effort," Robert Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas, said.
Almonte, remembers well, a case that helps bring the efforts of Operation Guardian into perspective. An 8 year girl disappears from a Walmart store in El Paso.
"We look at the video from the store and my heart sank to my stomach when I saw her walking out holding the hand of a stranger. Unfortunately, the next morning, I got a call. Her body had been found. She had been raped and murdered," Almonte recalled.
After the Adam Walsh Act was passed in 2006, the U.S. Marshals Office became actively involved in the hunt and capture of non compliant sex offenders. Since then, they've made over 33,500 arrests.
But echoing a statement made earlier in Tuesday's press conference, U.S. Attorney John Klassen says it doesn't stop there, "It's not a matter of if we find you, it's when. When that happens, I would say, it's not a matter of if you get convicted but when and how quickly. It's not something sex offenders want to mess with."
The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force is made up of 15 part-time agents from all across the Permian Basin.
Phil Maxwell with the U.S. Marshals Office in Midland says their numbers are changing every day and he encourages law enforcement agencies who aren't involved yet to join up.
According to Maxwell, "I think the message we're getting out to the community is we're all over the place. And if the bad guys think we're ganging up on them, they're correct. That's our goal, to gang up on the bad guys."
Operation Guardian highlights the 5 men who are worst of the worst, when it comes to non compliant sex offenders, in their respective districts.
Almonte says they're not dropping everything to focus on just them. Their job will continue as normal, "We're still looking for any and all sex offenders and we're going to stay on their heels and we're not going to let them catch their breath. We are going to arrest them."