A program started by the FBI on March 14, 1950 to publicize dangerous fugitives. The fugitives on the list are generally considered nationwide threats, and thus the program is important both for warning the public about threats to its safety and garnering public assistance in capturing the fugitives.

J. Edgar Hoover implemented the program after the International News Service ran a popular story on the nation's "most wanted" criminals. Fugitives on the list are carefully selected based on reports from the FBI's field offices. They are not removed until they are captured, cleared of their crimes, or no longer represent a "particularly dangerous menace to society." As of this writing, there have been 465 fugitives on the list. Of those, only five were removed for no longer being a threat.

Although the media assists with publicizing the list in many ways, the Fox television program "America's Most Wanted" (now known as "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back") has been particularly helpful for the FBI and law enforcement organizations nationwide. Public assistance has proved vital in the capture of innumerable fugitives, including many of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted.

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