CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - More than 5,700 convicted criminals in South Carolina are labeled as "absconders" by the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
A list of offenders we obtained from DPPPS goes back thirty years and details a range of crimes.
Offenders are considered absconded if they stop checking in with their probation or parole officer, or fail to notify them of an address change.
If an agent can't locate them, a warrant is issued and the absconder is entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
The department and its 450 agents are currently monitoring about 29,000 people who were given a chance to return to the community after committing a crime.
"At that point they become our responsibility," DPPPS Director of Public Information Peter O'Boyle said. "To put [the 5,700] in perspective, that includes people whose supervision goes back 30 years. We have between 15,000 and 20,000 people every year come onto probation or parole or community supervision… The vast majority do their supervision, no problem, finish it up and get on with their lives. It's actually one or two percent of the total population that are absconders."
We asked what they are doing to catch these missing offenders.
"Well, we're doing a lot," O'Boyle said, "Each agent is responsible for keeping up with absconders. Agents try to track them down by phone, visiting their homes, questioning relatives and neighbors. 'Have you seen so and so?' And they're even using social media these days. You'd be amazed at people who run from the law but still keep updating their Facebook page."
But there are also people who go completely underground.
O'Boyle says 68% of the warrants, about 3,900, are older than a year.
He said 20%, about 1,100, are older than ten years.
"It's very labor intensive finding these people," O'Boyle said.
The oldest warrant is for Yvonne Johnson, a Richland County woman who embezzled public funds and has been missing since May of 1988.
Five others were entered in the 1980s.
313 are from the 1990s.
Many of the criminals on the absconder list were not convicted for violent crimes. Some were in trouble for shoplifting. A significant number, about 1,100, committed drug crimes.
Others are serious offenders.
Two of the missing people are convicted murderers.
38 are sex offenders.
More than 250 convicted for crimes such as domestic violence or stalking.
"Scary. Scary. That's literally the word they use with us," Damitra Hilton said. Hilton is the Director of Program Services for My Sister's House, the domestic violence shelter that's served our area for almost forty years.
She's seen firsthand what it's like for a victim to find out her abuser has disappeared from probation or parole.
"Sometimes [victims] say, 'I just want to be able to live and not keep watching behind my back. I just want to be able to breathe again.' It's difficult. Very difficult," she said. "Which is why some choose relocation. Some have this conviction where their tired of running… But that is dangerous."
"They're our highest priority," O'Boyle said. "We prioritize finding offenders with violent convictions, particularly sex offenders and domestic violence. That's one reason why the legislature gave us additional money two years ago so we could hire domestic violence agents so they could be trained and work exclusively in this very tricky area."
"I do feel like police officers and investigators are doing all they can," Hilton said. "But in the meantime, it's a really scary place to be."
It can also be scary for any officer who comes across a violent offender while he or she is on the run.
Even with a traffic stop, if an officer searches a suspect's name in NCIC, the probation or parole warrant should pop up.
"The absconder can be arrested on the spot if they have any contact with law enforcement in the state or region or even nationally," O'Boyle said.
Terry Smith is a sex offender from Charleston who's listed as missing since 2011.
Sinetra White is a woman with a forgery conviction who's been on the run from Georgetown since 2014.
Ruvim Victor Kazadayez pleaded guilty to a felony DUI after a police chase and crash that seriously injured a woman. He served time and was supposed to have five years of probation. He's been missing since last year.
Why would someone serve their time skip their supervision so close to freedom?
"We wonder about that," O'Boyle said. "They've been given a second chance to live in the community, work, be with family and friends. All they have to do is comply… but by definition this is a population that's broken the rules at least once. So they do it again and it's our job to go find them."
Searching for absconders is not a full time job in our state.
DPPPS agents take that on top of their normal case load.
O'Boyle encourages offenders to reach out to clear up the warrant and move on with their lives.
If you have any information about an absconder, please call 888-761-6175.