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America's Most Wanted is an Americanmarker TV show produced by 20th Century Fox, and is the longest-running program of any kind in the history of the Fox Television Network. Its purpose is to profile and assist law enforcement in the apprehension of fugitives wanted for various crimes, including murder, rape, child molestation, white collar crime, armed robbery, gang violence, and terrorism, and also many of whom are currently on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. On May 2, 2008, the program's website announced its 1,000th capture; as of November 23, 2009, 1,094 people have been captured thanks to AMW.


The idea for America’s Most Wanted originally came from a German show Aktenzeichen XY... ungelöst (German language File Number XY... Unsolved) that first aired in 1967, and the British show Crimewatch, first aired in 1984, with the US version conceived by then-Fox executive Stephen Chao and Executive Producer Michael Linder in the summer of 1987. It premiered on February 7, 1988 on seven Fox-owned stations. Within four days of the first broadcast, FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive David James Roberts was captured as a direct result. He was a convicted killer who had recently escaped from prison by digging his way out with a small axe. This demonstrated the effectiveness of the show's "Watch Television, Catch Criminals" premise to skeptical law enforcement agencies. Ten weeks later, the program premiered nationwide on the Fox network and became the fledgling network's first hit series. Since its debut, it has become the longest-running series on the Fox Network. America's Most Wanted reinvented the economics of prime time television with its low-budget reenactments of crimes. A typical hour of prime time programming in 1988 cost $1 million to produce. AMW's initial budget was much lower than that, but the show's reality-style format and nearly instantaneous captures (some fugitives were captured before the episode's final credits rolled) contributed to its success.

After the program’s pilot aired, a lengthy search was conducted, and John Walsh was selected as the host of the show; other potential candidates included former Marine Corps Commandant General P.X. Kelly and victims' advocate Theresa Saldana. Walsh had gained publicity after his six-year-old son, Adam Walsh, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. Walsh and others had successfully advocated Congress for the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The show began profiling missing persons, especially children, in 1991. Some of the most notorious captures include John List, the Texas Seven, as well as Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, the abductors of Elizabeth Smart. On May 2, 2008, the AMW website announced their 1,000th capture; a New York Citymarker Realtor named Dwight Smith, who was captured more than a week earlier.

The show was canceled for a month and a half in the fall of 1996 when Fox decided to air a Saturday night sitcom block consisting of Married… with Children, Martin and two new series: Love and Marriage and The Preston Episodes. However, protests from the public, law enforcement, and government officials, including the governors of 37 states, as well as low ratings for the shows replacing AMW encouraged Fox to bring the show back. Martin and Married… with Children were moved back to Sundays. Producers rechristened the show America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back. Since this time, the AMW/COPS combination has made Saturday evening Fox’s most stable night, along with the longest unchanged primetime schedule on American television currently.
John Walsh presenting another fugitive.
The show expanded its focus to also cover criminals in the War on Terrorism when, on October 12, 2001 an episode aired featuring 22 most wanted al-Qaeda operatives. The show was put together due to a request by President George W. Bush, who had presented the same list of men to the nation two days earlier. In October 2002, the show did a special episode focusing on the serial sniper shootings in the Washington, D.C.marker area.

In the new millennium, America’s Most Wanted has seen continued success. Currently in its 22nd season, AMW has reported over 1000 captures.

The show usually ends with John Walsh saying, "...and remember, you can make a difference", or, on occasion, "...and remember, you do make a difference."

On the last week of January 2001, after AMW had helped capture the Texas Seven along with a large number of other wanted fugitives, Walsh concluded with, "You really made a difference."

On December 20, 2008, after AMW aired their top 10 fugitives of 2008, Walsh concluded by saying "You do make a difference...a very big difference."

Local versions of AMW

Station City Name Airs Notes
KTVImarker 2 St. Louismarker, Missourimarker "St. Louis's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
WJBK-TVmarker 2 Detroitmarker, Michiganmarker "Michigan's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WAGA-TVmarker 5 Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker "Georgia's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast "Georgia's Most Wanted" segments were hosted by Angeline Hartmann prior to joining America's Most Wanted as a correspondent.
WNYW-TVmarker 5 New Yorkmarker, New Yorkmarker "New York's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WTTG-TVmarker 5 Washington, D.C.marker "D.C.'s Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WITI-TVmarker 6 Milwaukeemarker, Wisconsinmarker "Wisconsin's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast This segment is produced similarly to a single story from AMW, and normally lasts 5 to 10 minutes.
WGHP-TVmarker 8 High Pointmarker, North Carolinamarker "Piedmont's Most Wanted" Perodically, during 10:00PM newscast
KECY-TVmarker 9 Yumamarker, Arizonamarker-El Centromarker, Californiamarker During commercial breaks throughout the day Ads feature John Walsh mentioning the region's police, and an announcer mentions someone wanted in the area. Another ad by Walsh directs viewers to the station's website for more wanted criminals. Unlike other Fox stations, who usually air similar spots either after the news or AMW, they air throughout the day, as the station has no newscast.
KTTV-TVmarker 11 Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker "L.A.'s Most Wanted" Periodically, during 10:00PM newscast Presented by Tony Valdez.
KCPQ-TVmarker 13 Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker "Washington's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, after 10:00PM newscast Hosted by KCPQ news anchor David Rose. The show premiered on November 14, 2008, and also airs on Friday nights at 9:30pm after the newscast on sister-station KMYQ-TVmarker, channel 22.
KSTU-TVmarker 13 Salt Lake Citymarker, Utahmarker "Utah's Most Wanted" Periodically, during 9:00PM newscast
KCITmarker 14 Amarillomarker, Texasmarker "Amarillo Crimestoppers Fugitive of the Week" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
KDSM-TVmarker 17 Des Moinesmarker, Iowamarker "Metro's Most Wanted" Periodically, during commercial breaks Each spot lasts about 25–40 seconds, and features one locally wanted fugitive.
WXMI-TVmarker 17 Grand Rapidsmarker, Michiganmarker "West Michigan's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WXXA-TVmarker 23 Albanymarker, New Yorkmarker "Capital Region'smarker Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WFXT-TVmarker 25 Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker "Massachusetts' Most Wanted" Perodically, during 10:00PM Saturday night newscast
KOKH-TVmarker 25 Oklahoma Citymarker, Oklahomamarker "Oklahoma's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
KMPH-TVmarker 26 Fresno, Californiamarker "Central Valley'smarker Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
KAYU-TVmarker 28 Spokane, Washingtonmarker "Washington's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, after AMW Produced by KCPQ-TV.
WTXF-TVmarker 29 Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker "Philadelphia's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
KDVR-TVmarker 31 Denvermarker, Coloradomarker "Colorado's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
KRCW-TVmarker 32 Portland, Oregonmarker-Vancouver, Washingtonmarker "Washington's Most Wanted" Every Monday night, at midnight Produced by KCPQ-TV.
WFLD-TVmarker 32 Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker "Chicago's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 9:00PM newscast
WUPW-TVmarker 36 Toledo, Ohiomarker "Toledo's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night at 10:00PM
KTXL-TVmarker 40 Sacramento, Californiamarker "FOX 40 Crime Alert" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WDRB-TVmarker 41 / WMYO-TVmarker 58 Louisville, Kentuckymarker "Louisville's Most Wanted" During commercial breaks and newscasts
WRAZmarker 50 Durham, North Carolinamarker "NC Wanted" Daily at 10:35PM
WPGH-TVmarker 53 Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker "Pittsburgh's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
WXIN-TVmarker 59 Indianapolismarker, Indianamarker "Indiana's Most Wanted" Every Saturday night, during 10:00PM newscast
Although not a Fox affiliate, Cable Government Access Channel KCSB-TV 3, San Bernardino, Californiamarker, produces a program called "Inland Empire's Most Wanted". It profiles wanted fugitives from San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. It is produced in co-operation with the San Bernardino Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and other law enforcement agencies in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The program was originally called "San Bernardino's Most Wanted" and focused on fugitives wanted by the San Bernardino Police Department and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, but later expanded its focus to include all of the Inland Empire area (i.e. San Bernardino and Riverside counties). Thus, the name was changed to "Inland Empire's Most Wanted". The program is distributed to other local access channels in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Hotline number facts

When America's Most Wanted debuted, the show's original toll-free hotline number was 1-800-CRIME-88 (1-800-274-6388). The last 2 digits of the hotline number changed each year (1-800-CRIME-89, 1-800-CRIME-90, and so on) until 1995, when it was permanently changed to its current number, which is 1-800-CRIME-TV (1-800-274-6388), which, coincidentally, was what the number had originally been in 1988.

About half of the phone operators are actors.

AMW Dirty Dozen

The AMW Dirty Dozen is a list of the most notorious fugitives that have been reviewed on the show that are currently at large. It is similar in function, though not identical with, the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, though four of the Dirty Dozen are on the FBI's list.

Currently there are only nine still at large on the list; the spots for Cesar Armando Laurean (captured), Emigdio Preciado, Jr. (captured), and Mark Everett (killed by police) have not been filled.

These are the current Dirty Dozen. They are in order as presented on the AMW website; the list is not ranked.
  • Robert William Fisher is wanted for killing his wife, Mary, and his children, Brittany and Bobby Jr., on April 10, 2001, and then burning down their house to try to cover up the crime. He is also on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He is considered to be AMW's Public Enemy Number 1. [39698]
  • Jason Derek Brown is wanted for killing an armored car driver and stealing $56,000 USD in front of a movie theater in Phoenix, Arizonamarker, on November 29, 2004. He is charged in Phoenix with first-degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He is believed to be in either British Columbiamarker, or Mexicomarker. [39699]
  • Paul Merle Eischeid, a member of the Hells Angels, is wanted for his part in killing a woman in Tempe, Arizonamarker, in 2001. He is charged with first degree murder. [39700] He was recently placed on the U.S. Marshals 15 Most Wanted List, and is additionally wanted for drug trafficking and RICO.

15 Seconds of Shame

15 Seconds of Shame is a segment (approximately one minute in length) where the show features four fugitives that are currently on the run, each in their own 15-second briefing. The run-up shows the charges against the fugitives, and where they might be. Aliases, tattoos and character quirks are also mentioned in the profiles.

Other facts

Cases that are international or have some international connection

Many of the series' cases have some connection outside the United Statesmarker or have not taken place in the United States at all. The first show that aired after September 11, 2001 was two hours long and focused mainly on terrorism. The series' first international capture was in Nova Scotiamarker in 1989.

The show's nature does not allow repeats, except for updates on convicted criminals, and is pre-empted a maximum of eight times during the year; three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, one Major League Baseball playoff game, the World Series, and one January NFL playoff game in odd years. However, if a fugitive featured on the show is not captured, their profile may be aired again.

On radio

A digest version of America's Most Wanted is distributed to radio stations Monday - Saturday through Citadel Media (formerly ABC Radio Networks) at 15 minutes past the hour from 5AM to 2PM (Eastern Time). It keeps listeners up to date on the latest fugitive and missing persons/children cases nationwide.


The announcer heard on the show for its first two decades was voice-over artist Don LaFontaine, who died on September 1, 2008. The next episode was dedicated to him. He was replaced by voice actor Wes Johnson.

See also


  1. Managing the Hotline at ‘America’s Most Wanted’: A Job Well Done, a Phone Call Away WSJ (August 11, 2009). Retrieved on 2009-08-13
  2. [1]

External links

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