On this day in 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation institutes the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list in an effort to publicize particularly dangerous fugitives. The creation of the program arose out of a wire service news story in 1949 about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture. The story drew so much public attention that the “Ten Most Wanted” list was given the okay by J. Edgar Hoover the following year. As of 2011, 465 of the criminals included on the list have been apprehended or located, 153 as a result of tips from the public. The Criminal Investigative Division (CID) of the FBI asks all fifty-six field offices to submit candidates for inclusion on the list. The CID in association with the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs then proposes finalists for approval of by the FBI’s Deputy Director. The criteria for selection is simple, the criminal must have a lengthy record and current pending charges that make him or her particularly dangerous. And the the FBI must believe that the publicity attendant to placement on the list will assist in the apprehension of the fugitive.
Generally, the only way to get off the list is to die or to be captured. There have only been a handful of cases where a fugitive has been removed from the list because they no longer were a particularly dangerous menace to society. Only nine women have appeared on the Ten Most Wanted list. Ruth Eisemann-Schier was the first in 1968.
The FBI also works closely with the Fox television show America’s Most Wanted to further publicize the effort to capture dangerous felons.