The author thanks Rachel Brewster, Shari Diamond, Theodore Eisenberg, Jacob Gersen, Bernard Harcourt, David Hyman, Steven D. Levitt, and an anonymous referee and participants in the 2005 JELS-Cornell Junior Empirical Legal Scholars Conference and the Midwest Law and Economics Association Meeting for helpful comments.
An Empirical Analysis of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted
Version of Record online: 8 MAY 2008
©2008, Copyright the Author. Journal compilation ©2008, Cornell Law School and Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 275–308, June 2008
How to Cite
Miles, T. J. (2008), An Empirical Analysis of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 5: 275–308. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-1461.2008.00125.x
- Issue online: 8 MAY 2008
- Version of Record online: 8 MAY 2008
Police agencies regularly publish lists of wanted fugitives. These lists may serve a variety of purposes, including (1) announcement of the police agency's enforcement priorities and (2) the facilitation of fugitive apprehension. When a police agency's enforcement priorities encompass fugitives whose apprehension risks vary in their sensitivity to publicity, a tradeoff may exist between these two purposes. This article conducts the first statistical analysis of fugitives who have appeared on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Ten Most Wanted List. It reports results consistent with this tradeoff. Estimates from hazard models show that changes in the characteristics of fugitives on the list were contemporaneous with declines in the speed of apprehension and in the likelihood that information or “tips” from the public caused a fugitive's apprehension. The results suggest that as the FBI acquired responsibility to enforce a wider range of criminal activity and as other avenues for publicizing fugitives developed, it increasingly used the list to communicate its priorities rather than to locate fugitives.