Jeff Downer As a bail professional I often find myself despairing over a never ending series of bounty hunter themed reality television programs hitting the airwaves. During these programs, television production values and contrived scenarios trump depictions of responsibly conducted fugitive recovery operations. Chief among these TV bounty hunters is Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter”.
Mr. Chapman first gained fame by seizing fugitive cosmetics heir Andrew Luster in Mexico. Mr Luster had fled to Mexico while facing trial in California. Since bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, Mr. Chapman was arrested while attempting to return Mr. Luster to the US. Eventually Mr. Chapman posted bail and proceeded to flee the Mexican authorities, becoming a fugitive himself; an embarrassing status he maintained for years before eventually outlasting Mexico’s statue of limitations and having the case dropped.
In contrast to Mr. Chapman’s Mexican experience, I recently came across an account of Jim Elliot, a fugitive recovery agent from Utah, who helped organize a successful fugitive recovery effort in Mexico which involved both the Mexican and American law enforcement communities.
As I read the account and watched the accompanying video I could not help but be impressed by the professional and effective approach Mr. Elliot employed as opposed to the Keystone Cops style adventure of Mr. Chapman. Mr. Elliot was even able to accompany Mexican police as they made the rather exciting fugitive apprehension instead of being arrested himself. The complete news account may be found here.
If you find yourself watching bounty hunter television shows, please keep in mind that it is just TV and remember that it is recovery agents like Jim Elliot who are the ones keeping it real.