Bexar County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff is now posting online the names online of every DWI and family-violence defendant who has a warrant out for their arrest in the hope someone will turn them in to authorities. A large icon added to the County's homepage this week allows visitors to search by court or see the entire list of fugitives. Click here to access the list.
Until now, that information had been difficult to access.
“There’s no justice until the defendant is brought to the courthouse and adjudicated by the judge. There’s court costs involved in the millions of dollars,” Rickhoff said. “Those of us that obey the law are being betrayed by these offenders, and they’re driving and working here in the community every day and continuing, I predict, to re-offend.”
With no money to spare in the County budget, Rickhoff spent months working with the County’s Information Services department to post an existing internal report and make it available online. It's updated approximately every hour. Rickhoff said mugshots of the fugitives will be added soon. A quick search shows there are currently 1,124 DWI fugitives and 1,312 who have skipped court appearances on family-violence charges.
The head of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is thrilled that the information is now available online. “I really appreciate [Rickhoff's] passion for trying to address the DWI issue,” Jennifer Northway said. “There are quite a few people on his DWI fugitive list who have multiple DWIs, so this is a wonderful opportunity to get the community involved with helping us get these dangerous folks off the road.”
The new data is just one more example of the growing number of County records being made accessible to the public on the Internet. In December, Bexar County District Clerk Donna Kay McKinney made all felony cases dating back to 1974 available online for the first time.
Rickhoff, who has served 17 years in the post since first being elected in 1994, says he plans to offer a reward to those who turn in fugitives. “I’m going to offer $1,000 out of my own campaign account and try to accumulate some additional funds for rewards. Maybe the County can be forthcoming with some proceeds that come back.”
— Brian Collister, WOAI Investigative Reporter. Find him online at woai.com. Email tips to email@example.com.