21st century wanted posters effective
In the 20th century, you might have seen a photograph imprinted on a flier hung in the post office or police station.
Now in the 21st century, wanted posters have left the post office and returned to the passing public’s eye in a BIG way: full-color, ever-changing, continually updated electronic billboards.
With the skepticism of a veteran cop, Sgt. Brian Donohoue of the Janesville Police Department said of the billboards’ effectiveness: “I’m suspicious of everything, but I’m pleased so far.”
Authorities have arrested eight or nine of about a dozen suspects pictured since March on Lamar Outdoor Advertising’s six digital billboards, Donohoue said Monday.
In two other cases, people called to tell local authorities that the suspects were in custody elsewhere, he added.
“One guy we put up on a Thursday, and within one day, we got a call that he was in a correctional facility in Illinois,” Donohoue said. “We get quite a few calls where we’re one step behind them (suspects).”
In cases where the suspect is incarcerated elsewhere, the agency overseeing the prison or jail is contacted and asked to put a hold on the suspect until he or she can be arrested on the local charges, he said.
“Sometimes, even family members will contact us to tell us they’re out of the area,” Donohoue said.
All suspects pictured on the electronic billboards are wanted in connection with felonies—serious crimes such as drug dealing or weapons offenses, he added.
When a wanted suspect is arrested, the billboards display “Captured” across the person’s picture.
Lamar contacted police about displaying the information as a free public service. The company can get new information up on billboards within an hour, Donohoue said.
When the city recently wanted to alert residents to the dangers of floodwaters, Lamar received, processed and displayed the information in an hour, the sergeant said.
The billboards are generating more calls to Janesville Area CrimeStoppers, but so far the extra contacts are being generated almost entirely by the “wanted” billboards and not the more recent displays publicizing specific crimes, Donohoue said.
Anyone with information about criminals, wanted suspects or suspicious activity can call Janesville Area CrimeStoppers at (608) 756-3636. Callers may be eligible for a cash reward.