Wanted poster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Wanted man" redirects here. For other uses, see Wanted Man (disambiguation).
A 1774 advertisement for a runaway slave in New York
A 1864 wanted poster for Carmine Crocco, Ninco Nanco and Angelantonio Masini, notorious bandits who terrorized Southern Italy during the Italian unification
Wanted poster for Percy Lefroy Mapleton (1881), the first such poster in Britain. Such posters were already common prior to this time in the United States.
Electronic wanted poster

A wanted poster (or wanted sign) is a poster distributed to let the public know of an alleged criminal whom authorities wish to apprehend. They will generally include either a picture of the alleged criminal when a photograph is available, or of a facial composite image produced by a police.


The poster will usually include a description of the wanted person(s) and the crime(s) for which they are sought. Wanted posters are usually produced by a police department or other public government body for display in a public place, such as on a physical bulletin board or in the lobby of a post office, but in ages past wanted posters have also been produced by vigilante groups, railway security, private agencies such as Pinkerton, or by express companies that have sustained a robbery.

Electronic billboards[edit]

In 2007, the FBI began posting wanted posters on electronic billboards starting with 23 cities, and have been working to expand this system in other states. This allows them to instantly post a wanted notice in public view across the US. In 2010, the FBI claimed that at least 30 cases had been solved as a direct result of digital billboard publicity, and many others had been solved through the Bureau’s overall publicity efforts that included the billboards.[1]


Wanted posters for particularly notorious fugitives frequently offer a bounty for the capture of the person, or for a person who can provide information leading to such capture. More modern wanted posters may also include images of the fugitive's fingerprints.


Composite images for use in wanted posters can be created with various methods, including:

  • E-FIT: Electronic Facial Identification Technique via computer
  • Identikit
  • PhotoFIT: Photographic Facial Identification Technique

Dead or alive[edit]

Historically, some wanted posters offering a reward contained the phrase "dead or alive". Thus one would get a reward for either bringing the person or their body to the authorities. This could indicate that the person was an outlaw, and that it was permissible to kill them. Alternatively it might mean that it was permissible to kill them if they resisted arrest.

See also[edit]