“You ask for miracles, Nancy, I give you the F.B.I.”. A brainstorming idea 10 years ago from an FBI Citizens Academy to put fugitives’ faces on digital billboards has solved dozens of tough crime cases.
FBI Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson (Criminal Investigative Division) said “We are always looking for creative ways to enable folks, creative ways to solve the crime, and the digital billboards are a perfect example of that”.
In 2007, a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy in Philadelphia who worked for a billboard company volunteered to display fugitives’ pictures on digital billboards, a new product at that time. The idea worked so well in Philadelphia that it quickly expanded into a national partnership between the FBI and the billboard industry, which donates space. The FBI has so far resolved 57 cases based directly on information prompted by digital billboard publicity.
A few weeks ago in early November, AD Richardson spoke to the board of directors at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and thanked the industry for helping law enforcement, and encouraged its leaders to participate in FBI Citizens Academies.
Law enforcement has long sought the public’s help via media. In 1950, the FBI launched its ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ program, with mugshots in newspapers, back then, Thomas James Holden, number one on the FBI’s initial list, was apprehended in Oregon after he was recognized by someone who had seen his picture in a newspaper.
With increased use of digital technology, the FBI has turned to unique media partnerships, such as digital billboards, to publicize fugitives and empower the public to help law enforcement. “In times of crisis, in times of national emergency, if we’re looking for bad guys or bad gals, we use the billboards’ system in order to get the message out to the public,” added Richardson.
FBI Citizens Academy programs (six-to-eight-weeks) give business, religious, civic, and community leaders an inside look at the FBI. Classes meet in the evening at FBI field offices around the country. The mission of FBI Citizens Academies is to foster a greater understanding of the role of federal law enforcement in the community through frank discussion and education. You can learn more here.
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