Facebook Live Event - FBI Investigative Publicity Program

This video is an archive of a Facebook Live session the FBI hosted on Mar. 14, 2018 to highlight the Bureau's Investigative Publicity Program and the history of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Video Transcript

Steve Lewis: Hello and welcome everyone and thanks for joining. When it comes to the FBI, you might think of our 10 most wanted fugitives list. You may have seen our wanted posters on social media, heard about wanted criminals on TV or the radio, or have seen digital billboards on your commute displaying information about a fugitive. Today we're going to talk about the history of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and also highlight the FBI's Investigative Publicity Program. You'll hear more about tips and leads from viewers like you that have helped the bureau put dangerous criminals behind bars. There's also much more about the Investigative Publicity Program you might not have known about and we're going to share that in the next 30 minutes or so. I'm Steve Lewis from the Office of Public Affairs with the FBI, and with me today is Chris Allen, who manages the FBI’s Investigative Publicity Program. As we get into our conversation please feel free to ask questions during our broadcast by typing them into the comments field or by using the hashtag #AskFBI. So Chris, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Chris Allen: Sure. Thank you, Steve, and thanks for the opportunity to talk about my program. So I joined the FBI in 2004 as an investigative analyst in the…as an analyst in the Counterterrorism Division. And within two years I figured out we had a lot more better analysts than I was, so I was lucky enough to find a find a home in the Office of Public Affairs. I started in public affairs as an investigative publicity coordinator doing the exact work we're talking about today. Did that for about five years before moving over to the National Press Office where I was an FBI spokesperson. And then last year I was lucky enough to come home to the Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit.

Lewis: Well you’ve had an interesting career so far. So here you are, which is great and we appreciate you. So today just happens to be the 68th anniversary of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Allen: Right.

Lewis: So on March 14th, 1950 we issued our first list of dangerous fugitives and so I want to take a step back in time a bit here. And could you tell us a little bit more about the origins of the program?

Allen: Sure. So it actually started a year before that in 1949. A reporter with the Washington Daily News asked the FBI for a list of our ten toughest guys to catch. The resulting news story, which I think you can see behind me, generated so much publicity and assistance on those cases that Director Hoover, the next year, formally instituted the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program on March 14th, 1950, 68 years ago today.

Lewis: So the Ten Most Wanted fugitives list, that's changed quite a bit since 1950, right?

Allen: Sure.

Lewis: And so, you know, I just want to know, how has the makeup of the fugitives on that list evolved?

Allen: Well it really has and so I…we often think about the makeup of the list sort of reflecting the crimes of the time. So when the list started in 1950 it was populated largely with bank robbers or burglars or car thieves. In the 1960s, you started to move toward sabotage and destruction of government property, kidnappings. The 1970s, you were moving toward organized crime groups. The 1980s was drugs and gangs and kidnappings. The 1990s, we’re becoming more conscious of international criminal activity and the criminals involved with that. Today the FBI is really focused on the most violent of crimes, so folks wanted for murder, shootings in public places, being part of a drug cartel or a dangerous street gang, or violent crimes against children.

Lewis: So how do the teams decide who gets put on the list?

Allen: So that's not the role for the Public Affairs…Office of Public Affairs, but our Criminal Investigative Division. So when there's an opening on the list, they will canvass all 56 field offices. They'll take the nominations they get back, pare it down to two or three that they think are the most appropriate cases for that list, and those nominations go all the way up for senior FBI review.

Lewis: And so the other question is, like, how does someone come off the list?

Allen: Well, certainly the most common way is to be caught, captured, or located – 95% of those Ten Most Wanted fugitives come off that way. There's been a handful of occasions – nine actually – where they were removed either because the charges were dropped or because the fugitive no longer fit the criteria of the list.

Lewis: So I want to take a quick break for a second here and first just thank everyone who's tuned in so far. So if you are just joining us, we're highlighting the FBI’s Investigative Publicity Program, and I'm Steve Lewis from the Office of Public Affairs and with me is Chris Allen, who leads the team that's responsible for promoting the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, which were talking about now. We just covered some evolutionary portions of it in history. So, by the way, you can submit questions at any point using the hashtag #AskFBI or by typing them into the comments field at any point, and we'll do our best to get to them for you. So back to the questions, Chris.

Allen: Sure.

Lewis: Who are some of the most infamous fugitives that have appeared on this list?

Allen: Well sure. There's probably a few names you're familiar with. Osama bin Laden, of course. Also recently, James “Whitey” Bulger. Going back a little ways, James Earl Ray, the assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber. One name I remember we get…got a lot of publicity when I was growing up was Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, the railway killer. There's also Cunanan – Andrew Cunanan – the serial killer who also killed Gianni Versace.

Lewis: And you probably actually have some interesting stories involving the top ten fugitives over the years. Are there any stories that you could share with us?
Allen: Oh sure. There's lots of good stories. You know, one that comes to mind is James Earl Ray. So he was…he's one of the only a handful – six actually – fugitives who were on the list more than one time. So his first time on the list was in 1968 for the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was arrested that time less than two months later in London with the assistance of Scotland Yard. But he was actually put on the list a second time in 1977 when he and six other inmates escaped from a Tennessee prison. In that case he was fortunately picked up two days later outside of New River Tennessee with the help of a FBI bloodhound named Sandy.

Lewis: Interesting, interesting. So…

Allen: One other case I’d like to share with you, if you don’t mind.

Lewis: Oh, sorry, you’ve got more!

Allen: I just got two I like to talk about.

Lewis: No, go for it. I'm sorry about that. I was so excited about kind of going on but I definitely want to hear these for sure. Sorry about that Chris. Chris, you have this stage.
Allen: So the other case I like to mention is Katherine Ann Power. So she was one of ten women who have been on the list, and she was added in 1970 as a result of her role in an armed bank robbery in Boston that resulted in the death of a police officer. She stayed on the list until 1984 in which she was one of those nine fugitives that came off the list as she no longer fit the criteria. But the FBI never stopped looking for her, and in 1993 she turned herself in to local authorities in Oregon.

Lewis: Okay.

Allen: And that's…that's it.

Lewis: Sorry again, Chris, about that. Like, you know, I'm sure you’ve…you're going to have some more interesting stories to tell, and so, you know, rest assured I'm sure you and I might be back up here again sometime now that we're talking more about it, so.

Allen: Let’s do it.

Lewis: Well anyway, the question I was most excited about and really why I was jumping ahead, like “I can't wait to ask this”…I want to talk about statistics.

Allen: Yeah.

Lewis: And so really, you know, obviously the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list here has been very successful. How many criminals have we captured due to the help that we've received from the public?

Allen: So you're probably familiar with the old adage “the FBI always gets its man.”

Lewis: I've heard of this.

Allen: And that's particularly true with the Ten Most Wanted list. So we've had 517 fugitives on the list; of that, 484 have been captured or located. That's a 95% success rate. And of those 484, 162 were as a result of citizen cooperation – that means that a member of the public provided that last critical key to locating the fugitive. That's a third of those who were captured. So the program is very successful in a sense.

Lewis: That is outstanding. And so, you know, we've been talking a bit about the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list but I want to shift now to really the main part of this session here, is the Investigative Holistic Program, which you lead. So, it's not just dangerous fugitives that we’re after, though. You know, are there some other focuses of the program besides fugitives?

Allen: Sure. So actually on our website there are more than a thousand posters seeking information on cyber criminals or domestic terrorists or white-collar criminals, kidnapped victims, missing persons, bank robbers. We also manage the Most Wanted Terrorist list or cases where we have a crime but we don't necessarily have a subject, so we're seeking information to help us identify who's responsible for the crime. Yeah, like I said, more than a thousand cases on our website and that’ll continue to grow.

Lewis: So, you know, we're just getting into more of the Investigative Publicity Program side of the house, so before we continue to do that I just want to stop, and thanks again to everyone who's been joining us so far as we chat about this great topic. You know, we're taking an inside look at how the Bureau promotes the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, but also talking about the Investigative Publicity Program as a whole and really just how we engage the public in tracking down dangerous criminals, bank robbers, and missing persons. You know, you can submit questions at any point using the hashtag #AskFBI or by typing them into the comments field. So, you know, if a question does come up here we'll definitely to get to it when we can. So back to it. So aside from publicizing fugitives, terrorists, and missing persons, your program also targets unknown individuals who were involved in the sexual abuse of children. Can you tell us more about that?

Allen: Yes, Steve. So I think the program you're referring to is our Endangered Child Alert Program, or ECAP. This is a really important program for us – it's a partnership between the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It began in 2004 as a way to publicize the unknown adult men and women – who we’d refer to as John Doe’s or Jane Doe's – that are seen in child pornography images, where we're trying to identify who they are. The program since 2004 has had…we've sought publicity on 39 cases – 39 John Doe's and Jane Doe's. Twenty-six of them have been identified and 13 of those – so half of those – were as a result of the publicity.

Lewis: Very good.

Allen: And when you find the adult, a lot of times you find the kid that was being victimized. So we have more than 40 children that were rescued, really victims, rescued as a result of ECAP. But listen, there's still 13 out there, so go on our website, go to ECAP, and take a look at those photos and see if you can help us.

Lewis: And the website that Chris is talking about is fbi.gov/wanted – it is a great starting point. So you go to that first and then once you get there it's the top right hand corner for ECAP and you'll be able to find all the information he's talking about and most of the information we're talking about today. So we’ll highlight that right at the end again but just if you want to go there now and check it out please feel free. So just like the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, you know, we throw all of our publicity tools behind cases in the Investigative Publicity Program, so can you tell us more about the different ways we bring awareness to the individuals that we're looking for?

Allen: Sure. So the basic concept of investigative publicity is to take the information and share it with as many people as we can, put as many eyeballs as we can generate leads. Usually starts with a wanted poster, and the funny thing is the wanted poster itself has been around for hundreds of years – well before the FBI – and the basic format has always been the same: it's the photo of the person we're looking for, his name, his aliases, reward information, what they did that has them wanted. So it's the same information. The only thing that's different is how we publicize it. So it used to be you go where the people are – so it used to be you would put this information at the post offices, right, because every town had a post office and everybody at one time or another went to the post office. By the mid-1990s, we took the same information and put it on our website – fbi.gov/wanted, like you mentioned – and we continued to go where the people are. So people, you know, in their cars commuting to and from work, sitting in traffic. We have a radio show – “Wanted by the FBI” – you can hear on your radio. We have partnerships with several outdoor advertising companies that will run our Wanted Fugitives or Missing Persons on billboards. We've caught 57 fugitives as a result of the billboard publicity and that's…they do that as a, you know, space available, no cost basis, so no cost to the taxpayer – very successful. And we also use social media, so this is how you're watching us now, through social media.

Lewis: That’s true.

Allen: So we use Facebook and we use Twitter and we use YouTube, and the most recent way we're…is with mobile applications. So we have two mobile applications: we have FBI Most Wanted and FBI Bank Robbers.

Lewis: So, I do want to get into that but for a second though I want to take a quick break. And again thanks for everyone who's joining us, for tuning in so far. We are highlighting the FBI's Investigative Publicity Program. I'm Steve Lewis in the Office of Public Affairs and we've been talking to Chris Allen, who leads the team that's responsible for promoting the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and oversees the Investigative Publicity Program. There's still time to submit questions by using the hashtag #AskFBI or by typing them into the comments field, and so we'll get to that when we're able to. So Chris, back to the mobile apps; you just mentioned a couple of good ones there so I want to expand more on this. You know many of us are using smart phones in various ways, so can you tell us how viewers can help right now by using their phones?

Allen: Sure. Right now you can go to Apple iTunes, you can go to Google Play and download the applications, FBI Most Wanted and FBI Bank Robbers. The application allows you to view, share, bookmark, sort, photos and information about the full range of cases I talked about earlier – fugitives, missing kids, bank robbers – and if…the greatest thing about the app is if you're using the app and you see a picture or you read about a case and you think you have information to help us, with the push of a button you can call the FBI field office, share that information, or you can submit the tip electronically.

Lewis: And one of the great things that, at least from when I was trying it out too, is that, you know, you've got your phone out and it actually is based on location too and you can enable that, so, you know, if I'm somewhere, say here, you know, DC or something like that, it'll kind of go around this area where I'm located.

Allen: That's right.

Lewis: So great technology there.

Allen: Absolutely.

Lewis: So we truly make it easy. So as we start to kind of get toward the end here I just wanted to look to the future and, you know, want to find out where do you see the Investigative Publicity Program going, you know? Obviously it's come a long way since the beginning and so I'm sure it's going to continue to evolve.

Allen: It no doubt it will. So it’s exactly what I talked about before. You're…the goal of publicity, Investigative Publicity, is to take our information and make it as convenient and as accessible as we can to the public wherever they are. The FBI learned a long time ago, we can't do this on our own. We rely on the support of our law enforcement partners at the state, local, tribal, and federal level, but we also rely on the support and assistance for the public. Investigative Publicity is the perfect example of that. We've caught, you know, so many fugitives, rescued kids – 57 off the billboards, several off the website. These tools work because the public helps us, so that's really the message going forward.

Lewis: Well this is a really good opportunity to sign off, you know, for the session, and so I do want to thank, you know, unit chief Chris Allen of the FBI's Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit for joining in the discussion. And so Chris, thanks again for joining us today, we appreciate that.

Allen: Thanks Steve, and thanks for the opportunity. And actually my crack Investigative Publicity staff just informed me that we've had 80 captures as a result of the website alone.

Lewis: Ah very good, very good then, very good. So thanks for adding that, thanks, appreciate that. So, you know, obviously if you have any questions later on, you know, feel free to still submit them to us, but definitely check out the…our website again, we mentioned earlier – fbi.gov/wanted – where you can get all the information that we covered and so much more. So again, thanks for joining us today, thanks Chris, and we will see everybody next time.


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