Law enforcement and the media have a long relationship of working together to get messages and warnings out to the public concerning wanted or missing people. Many times, stories by the media result in tips to police that lead to arrests.
Now, Salt Lake City and Sandy police are taking that partnership to the next level.
The two police departments have teamed up with Comcast On Demand to create Utah's Most Wanted. On Demand is different from regular television in that viewers can start watching a program anytime of the day or night. Utah viewers can call up different police cases from the On Demand menu and watch at their convenience. They can even pause or rewind a program if there is information they needed to watch more closely.
"This type of tool is a great asset to everybody," said Sandy police Sgt. Victor Quezada. "I think we're going to be so much further ahead of the game than we were two years ago. The bad guys are running out of places to hide."
Sandy began airing segments of its most wanted a couple of weeks ago. Salt Lake City began last week. Subscribers can roll through a menu of different cases with titles such as, "Child sex assault," "Old Navy robbery," "Sierra West robbery" and "Salon homicide."
After selecting a case profile, information about that particular incident is given, including what police are still looking for and what number a person can call if they have information about the case. In many of the profiles, store surveillance video or a mugshot is added with the story.
"Police departments have to be constantly evolving," said Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Bedard. "Criminals are always changing their methods. We as a police department need to do the same thing. This will greatly enhance our chance of apprehending these people."
So far, the Most Wanted programs seem to be a success. Already, Sandy's police cases have ranked in the top 10 most-viewed programs for On Demand in Utah, said Comcast public relations director Ray Child.
Comcast reaches from Logan to Nephi and from Heber to Grantsville. Although Child won't say how many subscribers the Utah's Most Wanted program is potentially reaching, he noted that 20 percent of the Utah Humane Society's pet adoptions now come from viewers who watch On Demand's pet adoption programs. The hope is the same amount of police tips, if not more, can be generated.
Child expects one or two new cases from Salt Lake and Sandy will be added each week. And once a case is solved, an update will be put on TV to let viewers know how it turned out. Profiles of cases will stay on the menu until they are resolved, he said.
Sandy police also hope to eventually use the On Demand system to issue a Safety Tip of the Week segment in addition to the Most Wanted.
There's also a chance that the people who are being profiled will see themselves on TV on one of the segments. Quezada said he hoped those bad guys who see themselves will realize that with an entire community looking for them, it will prompt them to simply surrender.