History of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List

The history of FBI’s top ten most wanted list  all started in late 1949, when a reporter wrote article about the toughest guys searched by federal Bureau of Investigation. This article became sensational news and got big publicity. Influenced by the publicity, in March 1950, FBI director  J. Edgar Hoover  started the Top Ten Most Wanted Criminals program. Then onwards, the program became the standard measure to fight crime and criminals. Occasionally, the top ten wanted list has been lengthened to include important case like the 1961 butcher-murderer case.

How FBI Decides the Top Wanted Criminals?

The fugitives are removed from the list only if the individual is killed, captured,  proven innocence from the crime, or charges against the individual is dropped. The list is then replaced with new selected fugitive by the FBI.

With the removal of the individual from the top ten wanted list, the operation for filling up that vacancy starts. All 56 FBI field offices  are given a call and each one can submit one or more nominees to occupy the vacancy in the list. Each field office submit nominees name, pictures, criminal records and any other important information to the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division . The special agents in the CID and Office of Congressional Affairs review the received nominees. The proposed nominees list is then moved to Assistant Director of CID for approval and finally FBI’s deputy director approves the final list. The process of selecting a new candidate on the list takes few weeks to complete.

Criteria in Selecting the Candidates for Top Ten Wanted List

There are two  criteria  while selecting the individual for the Top Ten Wanted List. First, the nominees must have a lengthy record of criminal charges and/or considered as a dangerous and serious threat to the society. Also, nature of their criminal activity and background check for all nominees is done. Second, it is believed that  publicity  given for the top ten wanted list would increase the chance in capturing the fugitives.

The criteria vary from time to time, everyone from small car thieves to terrorists have been selected to be on the list over the years.  Current candidates  on the Top Ten Most Wanted List are murderers, rapists, mobsters, pedophiles, and  terrorists .

How the Publicity is done?

As part of the Top Ten Wanted List program, FBI posts all the information regarding fugitive on their official website. In this post the fugitives in Most Wanted List and also all other fugitives who are threat to the society are included. The list is also posted in most of the  United States Post Offices , which displays 8'' by 8'' posters of FBI’s most wanted fugitives, commonly called as  identification orders .

Since 1950, 491 criminals have been on the wanted list, and their crimes vary from murders to  bank robberies. So far, charges against 15 candidates are dropped, as they are no longer threat to the society, and also seven women have been on the most wanted list. An average criminal will be for about 145 days on the list and the program has proven as a valuable crime fighting tool with about 94% success rate.