Every day, in various locations, we could find ourselves in relatively close proximity to any number of known criminals. I suppose that if one were to let oneself, that could be a source of concern, but it is also good to know that often, the criminal element in our midst is trying just as hard not to be seen, as we are not to know they are there.

Many of those criminals are not seriously dangerous, but some are so dangerous that it was decided that the public needed to not only be aware of them, but needed to help in spotting this dangerous element, so they could be taken off our streets. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made the decision in 1949 to institute what is now well known as the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. Once out there, like many new ideas, awareness grew, and a need was realized. The wire service story drew so much public attention that the “Ten Most Wanted” list was given the okay by J Edgar Hoover the following year.

Since its debut, the list has been responsible for the capture of hundreds of the criminals included on the list. To add to the success, more than 150 of those apprehended or located were a direct result of tips from the public. To start the list and in subsequent lists, the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) of the FBI asks all fifty-six field offices to submit candidates for inclusion on the list. Once these are received, the CID in association with the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs reviews then and proposes finalists for approval of by the FBI’s Deputy Director. The criterion for selection is simple. The criminal must have a lengthy record and current pending charges that make him or her particularly dangerous. In addition, the FBI must believe that “the publicity attendant to placement on the list will assist in the apprehension of the fugitive.”

Once on the list, there is generally only two ways to get off the list…die or to be captured. There have only been a handful of cases where a fugitive has been removed from the list because they no longer were a particularly dangerous menace to society. I suppose an older fugitive, known to have an illness or dementia would qualify. The list usually consists of men, but there have actually been ten women who have appeared on the Ten Most Wanted list. The first woman was Ruth Eisemann-Schier was the first, listed in 1968. The current list has a little room, I see.

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