THE ISLAND; He Has Fugitives Looking Over Their Shoulders
By ROBIN FINN Published: February 4, 2007
FOR sure, the novelty of discovering your face — or a neighbor’s — on the cover of the Long Island Fugitive Finder, nestled as of January among the real estate glossies on the racks of freebies at a few hundred local supermarkets, pharmacies and video stores, does not augur the same prestige as making the cover of Rolling Stone or GQ. But it may deliver a jolt.
”Can you imagine walking out of King Kullen with your bag of groceries and seeing your own face right there? Talk about an ‘oh no’ moment,” chortled Dean Murray, the crime-busting owner of D & S Advertising, a niche publisher of nuts-and-bolts handouts like Long Island Job Finder and Long Island Apartment and Rental Finder. And now, in conjunction with the Crime Stoppers division of the Suffolk County Police Department, comes his handy Fugitive Finder.
”It sounds corny, but this is a win-win proposition for everybody except the fugitives,” Mr. Murray said. ”They lose.”
At his own expense ($10,000, an amount he hopes will be eventually offset by advertisers), Mr. Murray printed 25,000 copies for the January debut of Fugitive Finder, distributed them at 200 locations in Suffolk County and didn’t have to wait long for the payoff: eight solid tips, one successful arrest, one pending.
When arrested on the basis of a Fugitive Finder tip, Keith Hertik of Medford had seven outstanding warrants for crimes including criminal impersonation and petty larceny. He was also charged with possession of marijuana and a weapon, said Officer Carol Rivadeneyra, who has run the Crime Stoppers division since 1994 and handpicks the culprits for Fugitive Finder, which she deems a brilliant intervention innovation.
Informants who call (800) 220-TIPS (800-220-8477) are assured of confidentiality and, if their tips help the police, a cash reward. Every other month, $2,000 to $4,000 in reward money raised by the Crime Stoppers civilian board is distributed.
”Crime Stoppers figured out a long time ago that if you dangle money, the phone will ring,” Officer Rivadeneyra said. ”Sometimes it’s rats ratting on rats, sometimes it’s family members, often it’s a jilted ex. I don’t care who the caller is; I just want accurate information. The philosophy behind Crime Stoppers is that people can be responsible for their own neighborhoods, aid the police and remain anonymous.”
Mr. Murray, 43, working out of a barebones office suite amid the strip malls that clutter Middle Country Road, dreamed up Fugitive Finder even before the late December afternoon when a petty thief slipped into his office, rummaged through his secretary’s pocketbook, then bolted with one of her credit cards after she surprised him in the act. The secretary hollered, and Mr. Murray said he gave chase, collared the suspect with help from a passer-by and retrieved the credit card. Then he let the guy go, like a catch-and-release fish too small to fry — even though he was a full-size adult with a goatee.
When his adrenaline returned to normal, Mr. Murray regretted not phoning the police.
”What kind of a crime fighter am I?” he said. ”First, because I was so mad that the office had been violated, I chase the guy myself, which you aren’t supposed to do.” (Page 2 of Fugitive Finder includes a disclaimer with an explicit warning: do not attempt to apprehend any of these subjects on your own.) Bad boy, Mr. Murray, giving chase outdoors while coatless and in your best dress shoes!
”Then, because I figure nobody’s been hurt and my secretary has her credit card back, I let him leave,” Mr. Murray said. ”I did everything wrong. It’s embarrassing.”
Less than two weeks later, he put out the first issue of Fugitive Finder. The response has been positive, he said, from elderly ladies titillated by the chance to play Miss Marple to the business associate who told him the magazine ”makes great bathroom reading.” Briarcliff College, advertising its criminal justice program, is its first sponsor. The Nassau County Police Department wants in: Mr. Murray said Nassau’s most-wanted fugitives would join Suffolk’s in March.
Michael Galgano, a paroled rapist whose last known address is Port Jefferson Station and whose mug shot bears a resemblance to Jackson Browne from his ”Running on Empty” decade, is on the January cover because he has not registered as a sex offender. ”We give the feature spot to someone we really want to catch,” Officer Rivadeneyra said.
He will be in the February issue, too, though not on the cover. That spot belongs to Donald S. Crosby, a goateed, 5-foot-9-inch man who the Suffolk police say is wanted for stealing purses and credit cards. Uh oh.
”When I got his photo, my heart fell to my feet,” said Mr. Murray, stung by a case of bad kismet.
Could the February cover boy be the December thief? This time, he’s letting the police give chase. Best-case scenario: Fugitive Finder does the legwork.