Latest Fugitive Billboard in Times Square
The FBI launched its Times Square digital billboard on NBC’s “The Today Show.” Pictured are
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New York City’s Times Square, often referred to as the “Crossroads of the World,” is famous for its eye-popping display of electronic billboards. Starting today, one of them will be featuring fugitives wanted by the FBI.
Credit goes to our partner Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company providing this free public service as part of our national digital billboard initiative. The announcement was made this morning during a live segment on NBC’s “The Today Show,” as the faces of three fugitives wanted for crimes in the New York region flashed across the 30- by 40-foot screen and were seen by millions of television viewers.
“When the FBI asked us to expand our billboard program to Times Square, we agreed immediately,” said Clear Channel executive Harry Coghlan. “This important initiative will now reach the thousands of people who pass through Times Square each day.”
The digital billboard initiative began in 2007, when Clear Channel approached us with the idea of using its billboards to help catch criminals, rescue kidnap victims, and provide high-priority security messages. Unlike traditional roadside signs, digital billboards can be posted electronically at a moment’s notice—often right after a crime is committed.
The national initiative was launched with 100 billboards in 23 cities. Since then, three other organizations have joined the partnership—Adams Outdoor, Lamar Advertising, and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia. As a result, we now have access to more than 1,500 billboards in more than 40 states nationwide.
Most importantly, the initiative is working. At least 30 cases have been solved as a direct result of digital billboard publicity, and many others have been solved through the Bureau’s overall publicity efforts that included the billboards.
“Our partnership with Clear Channel has proven to be tremendously successful,” said Joseph Demarest, head of our New York office. “I am confident that the Times Square billboard will enhance the success of this project exponentially. With millions of people passing through Times Square every year, there is no better way to draw attention to our most wanted fugitives.”
The first three fugitives posted on the Times Square billboard are Emerson Guzman, wanted for narcotics distribution; Yvette Torres, wanted for international parental kidnapping; and Tawan Hines, wanted for narcotics conspiracy.
Here are a few of the cases where billboards have helped us make arrests:
- In Tennessee, a man committed more than 10 robberies in six states during a two-week spree. Billboards launched throughout the region resulted in the identification and ultimate arrest of Chad Schaffner.
- In Virginia, Richard Franklin Wiggins, Jr. was arrested for money laundering and other crimes just three weeks after his image appeared on digital billboards. He reportedly turned himself in at the insistence of his family and friends.
- In New Mexico, Filbert Romero was a juvenile wanted for bank robbery. A photograph from the robbery was posted on billboards around the area. Romero’s mother—driving with her son in the car—saw a billboard and her son’s picture. He turned himself in that day.
“If you see something on our billboard and have a tip, pick up the phone and call us,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, spokesman for the New York office. “As we’ve seen across the country, your help can really make a difference.”
- National Billboard Initiative