The U.S. Marshals Service has lost track of approximately 2,000 encrypted two-way radios worth millions of dollars, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
The paper cited internal records obtained through a public records request in their report, adding that the problems date back to at least 2011, when marshals were using new versions of the radios in the field.
In interviews with the Journal, some marshals expressed concern that about the prospect of criminals getting hold of the missing radios and using them to gain intelligence on law enforcement activities. U.S. Marshals are responsible for protecting federal courts and judges; tracking, pursuing, and apprehending fugitives; and administering the federal witness protection program.
A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said that "poor record keeping" was to blame for the inventory shortfall, as opposed to an actual loss of equipment. The spokesman confirmed the Journal's report, but said he was not aware of any instances where public safety had been jeopardized as a result.
The agency's Office of Strategic Technology raised another concern in a 2011 presentation, saying "It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property ... Simply put, the entire system is broken and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues ... The 800-pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged."
In all, the agency has concluded that around 2,200 communications items have gone missing or are otherwise unaccounted for. However, several officials told the Journal that one internal count has put the total number of missing devices at more than 4,000.