Thursday, December 31, 2009


Reports on the pursuit of Colton Harris-Moore sometime make it sound like there’s a Mission Impossible-style headquarters where the FBI and squads of detectives work round the clock focusing their cutting-edge crime-fighting tools and toys on catching Colt, while SWAT commandos constantly comb the woods to hunt him down. Not so.

The truth is that on Camano Island in Island County and Orcas Island in San Juan County — the places where Colt has been most active since his April 2008 escape from a minimum-security group home — he’s primarily chased by local sheriff’s deputies that belong to the counties' small police departments. Yes, at times when the sheriffs think Colt is definitely on their island, they detail extra deputies, overtime, and sometimes pull in help from surrounding counties (in November, the Snohomish County sheriff’s helicopter was used to search the Camano woods because the Island County police don’t have a chopper). But maintaining a full-time task force dedicated to catching Colt would bust the already recession-reduced budgets of both departments. In fact, Island County is in such bad shape that sheriff Mark Brown is being forced to further reduce his available manpower by laying off one of his deputies:

Here in San Juan County, one Orcas Island deputy recently told me that he just hopes Colt is apprehended before next summer: “He hides somewhere else for the winter, but the last two years he’s come back here in the summer and man, chasing him is hard work.”

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