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Digital Signs and Law Enforcement

Outdoor advertising companies have teamed with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies to use digital outdoor advertising signs to apprehend criminal suspects.

Local Police

On April 14, 2008, Police Chief Neil Mahan of Janesville, Wisconsin, lauded the efforts of Lamar Advertising Company noting that digital signs have led to the arrest and capture of wanted fugitives. (Read Thank You letter). Digital signs have also helped find missing runaways and Alzheimer's patients.

Chief Mahan was impressed enough with the success in using digital outdoor advertising signs that he wrote an article for The Police Chief magazine that was published in the May 2009 issue (Read Police Chief Magazine article). The Chief admitted that this innovative program was not his idea. "In early 2008, the JPD was approached by Lamar Advertising Company regarding a possible partnership." The service is provided free by Lamar Advertising and has been a great success. "Since the beginning of the partnership, the JPD has placed 15 wanted individual on digital billboards and has seen resolution on 13 of the 15." Awareness and community participation were also increased. Mahan noted that "In terms of sheer numbers, calls to Crime Stoppers have tripled since the JPD began using digital billboards to publicize wanted suspects and other types of law enforcement initiatives. Lamar has worked with the department to post anti-dog fighting messages and an anti-graffiti message, both of which have been quite successful."

On a related note, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark presented Community Service Awards to Lamar Advertising of Milwaukee and Clear Channel Outdoor of Pewaukee in 2007. That year a deputy sheriff was killed while approaching a stopped vehicle along the interstate in Milwaukee. These two OAAW members were recognized for using digital outdoor advertising signs to educate motorists to "Move Over or Slow Down" when encountering an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing. (See the Milwaukee Sheriff Citation)

Federal Bureau of Investigation

A number of outdoor advertising sign companies in Wisconsin have joined forces with the FBI. In 2009, Adams Outdoor Advertising based in Madison was thanked by the FBI, U.S. Department of Justice for its involvement (Read letter from FBI). Unit Chief Hoffman noted that "The ability of digital billboards to communicate breaking information in real time, directly to the traveling public has proven to be an invaluable tool for FBI law enforcement efforts. To date, the FBI has solved at least 23 cases as a direct result of tips received from digital billboard publicity. Many more cases have been solved as a result of overall publicity efforts of which digital billboards played an important part."

U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar of Minnesota lauded the effectiveness of using digital outdoor advertising signs as "wanted posters" in the Congressional Record (click here). Representative Oberstar reported that in 2008 the FBI presented the Directors' Community Leadership Award to three OAAW member companies: Clear Channel Outdoor, Lamar Advertising, and Adams Outdoor Advertising. Representative Oberstar quoted the FBI website, "Long short story: the billboards are working and working well. And that means a safer America for all."

Outdoor Advertising Association of Wisconsin

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