Problematic Behavior or Activity
Programs that ask for the public’s assistance are done on a daily basis by agencies across the country. These efforts are often successful because the request for help, or the opportunity to help, is seen by the public as a way to be part of the solution to deter crime in the community. The Top Ten Most Wanted gives the public such a chance to be helpful.
Impact on the Community
The Top Ten Most Wanted lists the most sought after criminals who have prolifically committed crimes affecting the Salem community. Just like most communities, we have subjects with valid warrants who elude arrest, yet continue to commit crimes. The program provides a venue to feature these subjects, and engage the community and law enforcement partners in locating the wanted individuals, thus abating the continual criminal activity.
- Candidates are placed on the Top Ten list based on the following criteria:
- The subject must have an active warrant which is serviceable in our area.
- The subject must have a Salem Police investigation nexus.
- The list is produced monthly; distributed generally on the first business day of the month.
- A poster is created which contains ten subjects each with a small bio:
- The subject photo
- Name, birth date, physical descriptors, warrant charge(s)
- Name of the case officer who should be contacted with a tip
- The poster has a dedicated Web page, www.cityofsalem.net/topten , which allows a tipster to send in information (anonymously) on the whereabouts (and other particulars, e.g. vehicle, weapons, etc.) of the subject.
- The system allows for the tipster to click a link, and send in the relevant information.
- Upon tipster submission, an email with the information is sent to:
- The case officer
- The case officer’s supervisor, and
- The Crime Prevention Unit
- The additional email notifications were implemented in the event the case officer is out of the office for an extended period, or email failure.
- The system was created by the Salem PD Information Technology Department to be completely anonymous. Not even IP addresses are available to the officers receiving the email tip notification.
- The poster is also distributed via:
- An email service to which the public and law enforcement partners may subscribe, and
- The department’s social media accounts.
- Subsequent arrest updates throughout the month are posted on the Web, sent to email subscribers, and featured on social media.
No additional costs were required to start the program, nor to run it. The program is managed by the Crime Prevention Unit, and the operation tasks include:
- Production of the poster and any related creatives for promotions, and
- Maintenance of the email notification system.
Since the program’s inception in 2010:
- 218 subjects have been featured.
- 185 subjects have been arrested.
- Given the number of subjects featured and arrested to date, the arrest rate is 84.9%.
Critical Success Factors
Distribution of the poster to the community and law enforcement partners makes the program a success. The program has become well known by the criminal element, and anecdotal stories from officers demonstrate subjects do not like being featured due to the likelihood of their capture.
- Before implementing this program, the Salem PD tried running the program only using the Web site as a way to list wanted individuals; however, lack of wide program promotions eventually led to its termination. The program needed a way to drive viewers to the site. The Top Ten Most Wanted was resurrected after building the following into the program plan:
- Development of an easy-to-use system to submit/receive anonymous tips,
- To encourage community trust, it was important to develop a system that we could directly promote to the public as anonymous.
- Development of an email notification method,
- Development of a promotions plan to keep the public interest.
- Use of the e-tip system has worked well for citizens who prefer not to speak directly with police. Anyone viewing the poster online simply needs to click on the photo of the subject, and an email form pops up allowing the user to provide information, such as the location, type of vehicle being used, or the names of any known associates. However, in the final steps before sending the tip encourages the tipster to provide their information should the case investigator have additional questions.
- Promotion of the program is necessary to maintain attention to these prolific criminals with valid warrants. Social media has been very beneficial to the program as it allows for posting of the list, but also to make known when these subjects are arrested. Statistical evidence aside, public confidence in police competency to combat crime can be fostered when an agency can demonstrate successes in keeping the community safe.