Police and Law Enforcement

'Wheel of Fugitive' broadcast a hit in Florida

Florida sheriff's method of catching criminals goes viral

 

Sheriff Wayne Ivey will never be mistaken for Vanna White or Pat Sajak.

And his weekly "Wheel of Fugitive" broadcast in Brevard County, Fla., posted to Facebook, isn’t a game contestants want to win, either.

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But each Tuesday, a new fugitive is singled out for attention – based on the luck of the spin. Ivey’s "game show," complete with flashy graphics and a rock soundtrack, has caught numerous fugitives – with some even turning themselves in.

"We want for them to do the right thing and turn themselves in," Ivey said. "A number of them have, a number of their family turns them in. Usually within a very short period of time their inner circle has alerted them to the fact if they didn't see it that they are on 'Wheel of Fugitive."'

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Ivey says the concept has been well received in the community of about 600,000. He judges the response by the number of Facebook comments and shares and also by the comments he receives when out doing public speaking.

"Hardly any place I go speak or I'm at somebody doesn't say, "I watch the 'Wheel of Fugitive,"' Ivey said. "They see the value of not only trying to get the fugitive off the street but engaging the community in doing so."

Law enforcement has seen the value of social media in hunting for fugitives. "We have seen great saves all over this nation where individuals have instantly been reported as found by someone as a result of social media," Marion County Sheriff Emery Gainey told Fox 35.

Ivey said he initially rolled out the idea of the "Wheel of Fugitive," inspired by the popular game show "Wheel Fortune," during a speech to the publicly shortly after he took over as sheriff in 2012. The idea got a warm reception.

Initially, the department offered what it called "Turn Them in Tuesday." Each week the department presented a single fugitive's picture and asked the public for its help in pursing him or her. Ivey says his fugitive division saw an 88 percent success rate in removing fugitives from the streets with that approach.

He believes "Wheel of Fugitive" has a chance to be just as successful -- maybe more. The fugitive division is currently working with the University of Central Florida's sociology department to compile the success rates for the current program. They should be available around May, Ivey said.

"The reason we believe in it is because for 'Turn Them In Tuesday' we were only showing one photograph, but with 'Wheel of Fugitive' we show all 10 fugitives before picking one," Ivey said.

"Wheel of Fugitive" hasn't just captured attention locally, but has also gained national exposure.

Recently Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" made fun of Ivey and his wheel. Ivey, who prides himself on his sense humor, didn't mind being a punchline on the comedy show because of the attention it brought to what his department is doing to remove criminals from the streets.

"The fact that Wheel of Fugitive is being viewed that much and shared that much that it reached that level tells you the engagement we are getting in an audience," he said. "That's what we want. We want the community to be engaged and to help protect the community."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.