Stop! Freeze! — Digital Signage Helping Law Enforcement Catch Fugitives

By WPG AmericasFebruary 16, 2016

Finding and apprehending fugitives has always been a critical part of the job for law enforcement—and, this is an area where digital signage technologies and DOOH (digital out-of-home) solutions has proven to be an invaluable tool for them. When it comes to locating and catching criminal suspects, time is of essence. Often, through prompt real-time communication, a crime can be prevented. In such cases, even seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Many government agencies like FBI has been using digital billboards as a way to publicize wanted suspects and other types of law enforcement initiatives for nearly a decade now. Over the years, FBI has partnered with a number of outdoor advertising agencies to spread awareness—about fugitives, missing persons and public safety issues—and to communicate vital information and real-time updates effectively to people on-the-go. In fact, these DOOH initiatives have played pivotal roles in the success of many investigative efforts. These outdoor initiatives are paying off not just because the faces and names of the suspects are flashed in bright bold signs to attract the attention of the public—though this is a big reason. What’s more important is that digital signage and billboards allow for the messages to be repeated any number of times and this recurrence of message ensures these suspects are better remembered. Besides, these display technologies also help to:

  • Relay up-to-the-minute command updates to all locations
  • Distribute immediate alerts to all locations from anywhere in the country
  • Disseminate critical information during all types of emergencies—from criminal offences, child abduction, active shootings, to natural disasters.

In 2013, a digital billboard program initiated by the Houston police department was instrumental in the arrest of violent gang fugitives. The combined effect of digital billboards along with the Stop Houston Gangs' website—where people were encouraged to make anonymous tips through a reward of up to $5,000 for any information that led to charges or the arrest of a criminal gang member—helped the cops nab several local gangs involved in murder, distribution of marijuana and cocaine, and other violent crimes. Immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), joined forces with Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) to deploy seven digital billboards along I-93 and other major highways in the Boston area to broadcast public safety messages. A spokeswoman for the FBI, Jacqueline Maguire, credited the bureau’s partnerships with digital signage operators across the East Coast for the enormous reach of their investigative efforts to as far south as Washington, D.C. Last year, reported how the pervasive nature of digital signs and billboards can force alleged offenders to surrender. After a 33 year old Memphis police officer Sean Bolton was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop, the U.S. Marshals Service implemented digital OOH as a part of manhunt. The alleged suspect surrendered within two days, perhaps feeling “the walls closing in” as pointed out by Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. According to a recent report, Florida’s Santa Rosa County will soon witness new digital signage kiosks designed to broadcast information on wanted fugitives, crime suspects, and missing people. When it comes to criminal offences, prevention is always better than cure. And, it’s the speed of response and active communication that matters the most in preventing crimes and mitigating losses. This is why the need for law enforcement and public safety agencies to embrace new technologies like the rapidly evolving digital signage solutions will continue to grow.