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12/27/2007
04:07 PM
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FBI To Use Digital Billboards To Catch Crooks

The technology will be used to catch criminals, find missing people, and display high-priority security messages.

The FBI is planning to use digital billboards in 20 major cities to display each area's most-wanted fugitives, missing people, and high-priority security messages.

The nation's top cop is launching the project through a partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company that's providing the space as a public service, according to an FBI statement released Wednesday. The initiative follows a successful test of a billboard in Philadelphia.

The billboards, which will be placed near high-traffic areas, would enable the bureau to highlight the people it's looking for the most in a given area, whether they're violent criminals, kidnap victims, missing children, or terrorists. Pictures of victims or suspected criminals could be posted shortly after a crime is committed or a child is taken.

The FBI launched the Philadelphia test Sept. 13, displaying "crystal-clear images" of 11 of the city's most violent fugitives on eight billboards and a 24-hour hotline for people to call. In October, two fugitives were captured as a direct result of the publicity.

The billboards later helped catch a suspect in the Oct. 31 killing of Philadelphia police officer Charles Cassidy, who was slain during an armed robbery. The suspect was captured in Florida.

Clear Channel has agreed to provide the FBI with 150 billboards that will be placed in 20 cities: Akron, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa; El Paso, Texas; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Newark, N.J.; Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, Fla.; Philadelphia; and Wichita, Kan.

The FBI, which often uses information technology in law enforcement, said the billboards would be "coming soon" to the metropolitan areas, but did not give specific dates.

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