Thousands of hits crash first rogues' gallery on Internet
Britain’s first Most Wanted website crashed within hours of opening late last week after it received thousands of hits.
Crimestoppers, the charity that organised the site, was desperately adding extra capacity on Thursday night after 208,000 of the good, the bad and the simply curious logged on.
The site will eventually include the ten most wanted suspects in the country hunted by police for crimes including murder, rape, major robberies and serial crimes. They will be highlighted among between 20 and 40 suspects provided each day for a national list.
On its first day the site showed 22 suspects or criminals, including a convicted police killer on the run; a double murder suspect; a sex offender; and two men stealing crates of lager in Humberside.
So far 12 forces have joined the scheme but all 43 in England and Wales are expected to join and submit photographs or CCTV pictures of suspects.
The appeals that reach the national website are nominated by local forces and submitted on the basis of a system of weighting, which includes the seriousness of the crime, how recent the offence was, how long police have been issuing appeals and whether the crime is suspected of being part of a series.
The public can also use the website to go to local police sites to check any appeals being made by their home forces. If they want to pass on information they can do so through the website, by anonymous email, or by calling Crimestoppers. Visitors to the site will be able to search the list of suspects by crime type, or even carry out a search using information such as hair or eye colour.
The FBI first published its Most Wanted list in 1949 and there are already national websites in ten countries, including Argentina, Australia, France, Japan Spain and Switzerland, Announcing the British website yesterday Lord Ashcroft, the founder of Crimestoppers, said that 60 per cent of the population were online and the site would become an essential resource for police forces.
Mick Laurie, the chief executive of Crimestoppers, said: “We are convinced this will be successful because whenever the police use a photograph [of a suspect] and that is well publicised, the chances of them being caught are much higher.”
When a national newspaper recently published photographs of eight football hooligans wanted by police they received calls on five of them and one suspect gave himself up.
Detective Superintendent Sean Cunningham, of Scotland Yard, said that criminals got away with exploiting new technologies and it was time that the police did the same. He said that the Yard already had a wanted site, which will be linked into the national site.
Nick Ross, presenter of the BBC programme Crimewatch, described the website as the biggest advance since the Wanted poster. He said it was astonishing that the police had not acted earlier because it is difficult to have a national appeal other than through his programme.
As the charity tried to reconnect the site, a spokeswoman said it had not expected such heavy demand but it was good that so many were interested. Defending the choice of crimes, she said that the system would grow and it was only the first day of the website. More serious crime would go on the site as more forces used it.
For more on this story see The Times Online.
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