WEST MICHIGAN — It's been a busy year for law enforcement, especially when it comes to arresting fugitives featured each week on FOX 17 and West Michigan's Most Wanted.
In 2015, more than 100 featured fugitives were arrested, many of whom were caught due in large part to FOX 17 viewer tips, according to Steve Hetherington, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force Supervisor.
“We really depend on the community for information," he said. "It makes our jobs so much easier and it makes the communities safer, quicker."
Hetherington said the task force sets out each year to close more than 1,500 fugitive cases from Muskegon to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and everywhere in between. More than 150 of those cases were featured on 'Most Wanted' with more than 100 caught.
"We eventually find these guys but when we have people help us out and communicate with us, providing us tips it goes a lot faster," he said.
In October alone, Hetherington said his task force received an unprecedented amount of tips—more than 25—while the U.S. Marshals partnered with local police agencies to track down known domestic violence offenders.
“That is significant and a great response from the public," he said, attributing it to the fact the topic is one that likely strikes a chord with many viewers. During that one month, nearly all of the 24 wanted fugitives were captured.
“I think it’s because its so prevalent," Hetherington said. "So many people have been touched by that particular crime. It might mean more to them to have someone held accountable for what they’re doing.”
Beyond that, Hetherington credits social media and how quickly word can spread online. He said the task force regularly receives tips for 'Most Wanted' featured fugitives outside of Michigan.
“Just to show the breadth of how far this reaches on your show, we often get tips from out of state from people who say they searched his name on the internet and saw on FOX 17 he was wanted and he’s living out here," he said. "So it reaches farther than you think.”