Home News Stories 2008 August

Another Side of the FBI

In Your Community
Another Side of the FBI

08/26/08

cr_seal_260.jpgTalk about a quick turnaround. In May, we alerted our partner, Clear Channel Outdoor, about a fugitive wanted for armed bank robbery in Milwaukee. Clear Channel quickly featured the man on its digital billboards in and around the city. By the next morning, the fugitive had turned himself in. Apparently, he saw his mug shot on a billboard and, in his own words, “did not like that.”

It’s just one of the many recent operational successes for our Community Outreach Program. You know that we have special agents across the globe gathering clues and intelligence and solving cases. But did you know that we also have a network of community outreach professionals nationwide supporting their work every day?

We do, and we count on these professionals more than ever to build partnerships with all manner of civic, minority, religious, and ethnic leaders and organizations at national and local levels…to help us get our arms around evolving threats and demographic changes…and to strengthen our overall efforts to prevent crime and terrorism. That includes everything from developing anti-gang strategies to building trust with Muslim leaders.

One partnership—headed by our community outreach specialist in Philadelphia—led to the groundbreaking agreement with Clear Channel to feature FBI fugitives and emergency notices on its digital billboards in dozens of cities across the country starting late last year. Two more digital billboard providers—Adams Outdoor and Lamar Advertising—have since joined the initiative. So far, at least eight fugitives have been captured as a direct result of publicity from the billboard program.

Each year, our outreach professionals nationwide—who now number 65—come together with representatives from FBI Headquarters for a weeklong conference to build on successes like these. This year’s conference—held in Tampa in June and led by Brett Hovington, chief of the Community Relations Unit at FBI Headquarters—was particularly productive. The participants wrestled with tough issues, shared insights and best practices, explored the many tools available for successful outreach, and heard from a variety of experts and leaders, including FBI Deputy Director John Pistole and Assistant Director John Miller, head of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

For the second straight year, one outreach partner—the FBI National Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association—held a simultaneous conference, getting into the weeds of finding ways to build a safer America by supporting our mission and participating in joint sessions with the community outreach professionals.

During his presentation, Miller summarized the importance of our community outreach specialists, calling them “unsung heroes” who “build bridges that our special agents can walk across” and who have their hands “on the pulse of the community” by reaching into schools, neighborhoods, corporate boardrooms, mosques, and churches. The work, he said, is vital and not always easy—including late night meetings and some “uncomfortable questions to answer.” Miller also praised our Citizens’ Academy alumni, who take their own time to support the FBI and “lead us to the next door and the next door and the next.”

For more information on our Community Outreach program, visit our “In Your Community” website.