Breaking Down The Anatomy Of A National Manhunt The search in northern New York and Vermont for two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum security prison is taking place in some of the most rugged terrain in the country.
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Breaking Down The Anatomy Of A National Manhunt

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Breaking Down The Anatomy Of A National Manhunt

Breaking Down The Anatomy Of A National Manhunt

Breaking Down The Anatomy Of A National Manhunt

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/413635657/413711373" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A law enforcement officer searching for escaped prisoners walks through a swampy area near Essex, N.Y. State and federal law officers are searching for two killers who used power tools to break out of a maximum-security prison. Seth Wenig/AP hide caption

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Seth Wenig/AP

A law enforcement officer searching for escaped prisoners walks through a swampy area near Essex, N.Y. State and federal law officers are searching for two killers who used power tools to break out of a maximum-security prison.

Seth Wenig/AP

It's Day 6 of the massive manhunt in northern New York and Vermont for two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum security prison. The search intensified with residents in the town of Cadyville, N.Y., ordered to stay in their homes while police went door to door.

More than 500 state and federal investigators have been scouring the rugged and remote terrain in that area just south of the U.S.-Canada border. That effort takes a huge amount of manpower and coordination. Searchers are also hoping for a little bit of luck.

Take a look at an incredibly detailed topographic map of Clinton and Essex counties, where the search is underway. It won't take long to realize just how difficult that search is. Incredibly remote communities scattered among mountain valleys, huge expanses of empty forest, old farm meadows and swampland.

"We're covering a very large expansive area," says Capt. John Tibbets, one of the men leading the search near the town of Willsboro. "It's lot of low-lying brush. There's a lot of wooded areas. There's a lot of abandoned outbuildings."

Along the dirt road, through the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, men and women in body armor move almost shoulder to shoulder across a field. A helicopter prowls overhead.

Here's how this search is working: State police or other agencies receive a tip and if the information seems remotely credible, teams swarm in.

"Anytime we get a lead of this nature, where there's a potential sighting, we're going to run it into the ground," Tibbets says.

For security reasons, state police won't let civilians join an actual grid search. Even along the barriers where there's public access, fugitives could be hiding amid the brush just feet away without ever being seen. The foliage is that dense. The only solution, state police say, is to go over this terrain almost inch by inch.

"To date, we've received more than 500 leads," says Joseph D'Amico, head of the New York State Police. He's responsible for coordinating the entire effort. D'Amico acknowledges that with such a vast area to cover and so many tips coming in, his officers are playing Whac-a-Mole.

Tibbets says if local residents are weary of all the tension and waiting, it's also tough for the hundreds of officers out in the field.

"After three or four days of doing this, they're hurting," he says. "We suffer dehydration; guys get hungry. It's an area where there's a lot of ticks, a lot of insect activity."

No one will say yet how much all this is costing or what will happen if the two inmates aren't found in the next couple of days. Authorities here are meeting every night to compare notes and plan for the next day.

After nearly a week, the search is still basically a needle in a haystack. Only in this case, the needle — those two escaped murderers — is trying its hardest to avoid being found.