WASHINGTON – It used to be you’d have to peruse the local post office wall to see who was on the FBI’s infamous “Top 10 Most Wanted” list.
Now, the mug shots are just a click away.
The FBI’s site on the World Wide Web (http://www.fbi.gov) offers a look at key activities of one of the country’s top law enforcement agencies.
The site contains a list of the 10 most wanted fugitives in the nation, along with their file photos, aliases, offenses, physical descriptions and, for some, reward information.
Click on a fugitive’s photo, such as one for Glen Stewart Godwin, and text information pops up on the screen. You’d learn, for instance, that Godwin, a convicted murderer, escaped in 1987 through a storm drain from Folsom State Prison in California.
The FBI site also provides a list of other fugitives, crime statistics, a history of the bureau and information on some of the FBI’s most famous cases, including the kidnapping and murder in 1932 of the 20-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh.
Since the site was launched in April 1995, it has grown in popularity, said coordinator Bill Carter, 45, of Catonsville, Md.
It now receives 9.4 million “hits,” or looks, from users each month, he said.
Although the site is intended to appeal to the general public, reporters, students and scholars most frequently make requests for information on the site, he said.
The most-wanted lists generate the majority of visits, Carter said. They also have generated results.
Two fugitives were captured because viewers saw pictures and descriptions of the men on the site, Carter said.
Last May, the FBI nabbed its first top 10 fugitive based on information found on the Web site.
Leslie Rogge, 56, an escaped federal prisoner wanted for bank robberies in North Carolina and Missouri, interstate transportation of stolen property and wire fraud, was spotted by someone who had seen him in Guatemala. Guatemalan National Police began a manhunt for Rogge and he surrendered.
A second fugitive was found in January. Rakesh Magan, 38, wanted by Utah police on charges of arson and communication fraud, was spotted in Massachusetts by someone who saw his picture on the Web site.
Students and scholars have shown an interest in the historical cases highlighted on the site, including Bonnie and Clyde’s, Al Capone’s and the Lindbergh baby’s.
By clicking on “Bruno Richard Hauptmann,” a lengthy text file appears detailing the FBI’s involvement in the Lindbergh case, from looking for the kidnapper through Hauptmann’s conviction and execution in 1936. Circumstantial evidence, including a ladder allegedly used to gain entrance to the Lindbergh home, played a key role.
Carter said his office has been encouraging the 56 FBI field offices to develop their own home pages and link them to the main site.
The field office in San Antonio, Texas, became the first to do so. San Antonio’s home page offers information on white-collar criminals in the area.
Carter said he had little background in computers, but was chosen for this job because of his coordination skills. He has worked for the FBI for 23 years.
He served as a fingerprint examiner and was in charge of tours at the J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building before heading up the bureau’s foray onto the World Wide Web. -30-