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The FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives
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Facts on the Program

  1. What is the purpose of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program?
  2. How many fugitives have been captured due to public assistance?
  3. When was the Program started?
  4. How did the Program originate?
  5. Who actually decides which fugitives go on the list?
  6. On what criteria is that decision made?
  7. Are members of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list ranked?
  8. When are fugitives removed from the list?
  9. How many women have been on the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list?
  10. Has the makeup of the fugitives on the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list changed over the years?
  11. How many fugitives have been on the list?
  12. Did the FBI ever have a "Ten Most Wanted Public Enemies" Program before the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program began?
  13. What commercial uses of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" are allowed.
  14. How is the FBI using television and radio to help capture fugitives?

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  1. What is the purpose of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program?

    It is designed to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives who might not otherwise merit nationwide attention. The FBI values and recognizes the need for public assistance in tracking fugitives.

  2. How many fugitives have been captured due to public assistance?

    One hundred and forty-six of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" apprehensions have resulted from citizens recognition of fugitives through this publicity program.

  3. When was the Program started?

    It was founded on March 14, 1950, by the FBI in association with the Nation's news media.

  4. How did the Program originate?

    A newspaper story in late 1949 led to the creation of the list. A reporter for the International News Service (the predecessor of the United Press International) asked the FBI for the names and descriptions of the "toughest guys" the FBI would like to capture. The story had so much appeal and generated so much positive publicity that former Director J. Edgar Hoover implemented the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program.

  5. Who actually decides which fugitives go on the list?

    The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) at FBI Headquarters calls upon all 56 Field Offices to submit candidates for the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list. The nominees received are reviewed by Special Agents in the CID and the Office of Public Affairs. The selection of the "proposed" candidate(s) is forwarded to the Assistant Director of the CID for his/her approval and then to the FBI's Deputy Director for final approval.

  6. On what criteria is that decision made?

    • First, the individual must have a lengthy record of committing serious crimes and/or be considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges.
    • Second, it must be believed that the nationwide publicity afforded by the Program can be of assistance in apprehending the fugitive, who, in turn, should not already be notorious due to other publicity.

  7. Are members of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list ranked?

    No.

  8. When are fugitives removed from the list?

    "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" are only removed from the list when they meet one of the following conditions.

    • First, they are captured.
    • Second, the charges are dropped against them--this is not an FBI decision.
    • Third, they no longer fit "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" criteria.

    In the five cases where fugitives were removed for the third reason, it was determined that each fugitive was no longer considered to be a "particularly dangerous menace to society." When a fugitive is removed from the list, another is added to take his or her place.

  9. How many women have been on the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list?

    Seven. The first, Ruth Eisemann-Schier, was added in 1968 for kidnapping, extortion, and other crimes.

  10. Has the makeup of the fugitives on the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list changed over the years?

    Most definitely, just as the priorities of the FBI have changed. Through the 1950s, the list was primarily comprised of bank robbers, burglars, and car thieves. Once into the radical 1960s, the list reflected the revolutionaries of the times with destruction of Government property, sabotage, and kidnapping dominating the list. During the 1970s, with the FBI's concentration on organized crime and terrorism, the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" included many fugitives with organized crime ties or links to terrorist groups. This emphasis, along with serial murders and drug-related crimes, continues today.

  11. How many fugitives have been on the list?

    As of May 6, 2004, there have been 478 fugitives on the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list. Four hundred and forty-nine individuals appearing on the list have been located, 146 of them as a direct result of citizen cooperation. Process was dismissed against 15 of the individuals placed on the list, and this number is not included in the total captured. Five fugitives were removed from the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list because they no longer fit "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" criteria in some manner.

  12. Did the FBI ever have a "Ten Most Wanted Public Enemies" Program before the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" Program began?

    • No. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice made use of the term, "public enemy," in the 1930s, an era in which the term was synonymous with "fugitive" or "notorious gangster." It was used in speeches, books, press releases, and internal memoranda. However, neither the FBI nor the Department had any type of publicity program which concentrated on a "public enemy" number 1, number 2, etc.

    • The origin of the name, "public enemy," has been traced to the Chicago Crime Commission, which invented the term around 1930. "Public Enemy" caught national attention, and the Commission maintained lists of its "public enemies" which were released through the news media. In addition, the term was popularized by a 1931 movie, "The Public Enemy," in which James Cagney portrayed a gangster.

    • Common usage of the name, "public enemy," died out during the World War II period.

  13. What commercial uses of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" are allowed?

    None. Commercial use is strictly prohibited. Descriptions and pictures of the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" are provided for the sole purpose of eliciting public assistance in tracking fugitives.

  14. How is the FBI using television and radio to help capture fugitives?

    Currently, the FBI is using television and radio to attract public attention to the "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives," as well as other fugitives. A network is airing a television program on FBI fugitives, and the ABC Radio Network hosts "FBI, This Week."

    Since early 1988, the FBI has been publicizing fugitives on the television program, "America's Most Wanted," now known as "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," seen on the Fox Television Network. FBI fugitives have been profiled and captured as a direct result of the broadcasts. Through recreations of crimes, as well as photographs and videotapes of the actual criminals involved, "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back" seeks to solve crimes and get dangerous criminals off the street. A nationwide toll-free hotline has been set up to allow viewers with information about any of the criminals to provide anonymous tips to law enforcement officials involved in the investigations.

    "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back" is hosted by John Walsh, a nationally known advocate for missing and exploited children, whose efforts have resulted in numerous laws protecting missing youngsters. The story of how he and his wife, Reve, turned their grief over the tragic 1981 abduction and death of their son, Adam, into hope for others was dramatized in two NBC television films, "Adam" (1983) and its sequel, "Adam: His Song Continues" (1986).

    As host of "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back," Mr. Walsh narrates each criminal case presented and gives updates on cases shown on previous programs. The show's flexible format permits covering breaking stories and new developments in major cases. It also allows law enforcement officials to appeal for leads in serious crimes which have occurred during the previous week.

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