January 22nd, 2007 13:37 EST
FBI Fugitives Beware Two gang fugitives. Caught
A wanted sex felon. Caught. Two gang fugitives. Caught. A federal narcotics suspect. Caught. And eight other FBI fugitives besides.
All through an effective partnership launched nearly a year ago between our field office in Chicago and a local television station.
"It's exceeded our wildest expectations," says Ross Rice, our Chicago media representative. "The public response has been phenomenal."
How the partnership came to pass. Last January, the FBI tracked down wanted Mafioso Joseph "The Clown" Lombardo, who had been on the run for nine months after being indicted in a murder conspiracy case. A local Fox television reporter asked Rice, "So who's the next fugitive you need to find?"
One thing led to another…and soon Rice had agreed to provide the TV station one FBI fugitive a week for a regular Saturday evening broadcast. The segment has become one of the station's most popular and, thanks to the public, has helped capture a dozen dangerous suspects.
"Violent crime is up in Chicago—we've had a record number of bank robberies the past two years, for example. With more of our agents focused on terrorism since 9/11, this partnership is a great way for us to do more with less," explains Rice. Local banks have been robbed by everyone from a 79-year-old woman using a toy gun…to the "Hardhat Bandit" who wears a yellow construction hat…to the "Wheaton Bandit," who is well armed and thought to have military or law enforcement training, Rice says.
Catching criminals by combining the reach and power of the media with the watchful eyes of concerned citizens is a formula that has worked for decades—including through our Ten Most Wanted Fugitive program launched in 1950. In 2006, national publicity alone led to the capture of 17 FBI fugitives, including five through this website.
What Chicago has done is localize the initiative, bringing fugitives of the Windy City not only to area citizens but also to audiences across the nation and even around the world through the television website. Several fugitives were found on the east coast; one was caught in southeastern Europe.
"To me, it's the ultimate form of community policing," says Rice. "When people take an interest in protecting their own neighborhoods, that's a tremendous force multiplier."
The following are the dozen individuals who have been captured so far thanks to tips from viewers: