The FBI's most wanted bank robbers, violent criminals and terrorists will soon appear on 150 digital billboards in 20 cities nationwide.
The federal agency has teamed up with Phoenix-based Clear Channel Outdoor to begin airing mug shots following a successful test run in Philadelphia that led to several arrests.
Cleveland, Akron, and Columbus are the Ohio cities where the advertising company has electronic billboards along major roadways. Clear Channel Outdoor is donating the eight-second spots which will also feature photographs of missing children.
The billboards also will be used to post photos and information on recently committed crimes. The company can add new information to the signs in a matter of minutes.
The company will pre-empt paid advertising if the FBI needs to broadcast an urgent message, said Clear Channel Outdoor's global president Paul Meyer.
Local law enforcement agencies have put criminals' mug shots on electronic billboards as the devices have spread across the country over the last few years, numbering about 800, said Jeff Golimowski, spokesman for Outdoor Advertising Association of America. This is the first time the FBI is posting its fugitives.
"What law enforcement tells us is it contributes to an environment where the criminal feels they have no where to go. A lot of times they end up just giving up," Golimowski said. "It serves a dual purpose."
Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Cleveland FBI office, said he's seen that happen when a fugitive's photo is shown on television and in newspapers. He expects the program to duplicate what happened in Philadelphia.
The billboards will also feature photographs of missing children and a 24-hour hotline number for the public.
After police officer Charles Cassidy was killed Oct. 31 while responding to an armed robbery, the suspect was captured in Florida as a direct result of exposure on the billboards, according to the FBI.
Other cities to feature the billboards include Albuquerque, N.M., Atlanta, Chicago, Des Moines, Iowa, El Paso, Texas, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Tenn., Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Newark, N.J., Orlando, Fla., Tampa, Fla. and Wichita, Kan.