FBI Enlists IT to Spread Message

The FBI will soon be using digital billboards in 20 cities to let drivers know about wanted criminals, missing children and terror alerts in the area.

The FBI's most wanted murders, cop killers, bank robbers and terrorists have one more force aligned against them: digital billboards.

Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company which operates more than 167,000 advertising displays in the United States is providing free billboard space as a public service.

In a partnership between the FBI, the digital billboards will be used throughout the United States to display pictures of each area's most wanted fugitives as well as high priority security messages.

"The thought process was that in rush hour, when these flash up on the billboards you can reach a large volume of viewers stuck in traffic. The contact number is in bold," Thomas Perzichilli, agent and media representative for the FBI's Philadelphia Filed Office, told eWEEK.

Clear Channel will be donating eight-second spots to the FBI that will feature most wanted criminals, missing children alerts or even notifications of a terrorist attack. In the case of an emergency, new information can be added within minutes and paid advertising can be pre-empted.

The program, which had been piloted in Philadelphia starting Sept. 18, was met with enough success that it will soon be extended to 150 billboards in 20 cities nationwide, both the FBI and Clear Channel announced Dec. 26. Cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami.

"Through our community outreach program in Philadelphia, we worked out an agreement with Clear Channel," Perzichilli said. "It is of no cost to us, and they've been very generous in offering it to us."

So far, the FBI said it finds the program effective, if not only in catching dangerous criminals, but in engaging the public in what they do.

"It's been a great program so far, an effective tool," Perzichilli said. "At the same time, the public can have some ownership of the process by calling the FBI and helping out."

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