The Army's bad-guy list will go public by the end of the year.
In a move that will match the "most wanted" websites already maintained by other services, the Office of the Provost Marshal General plans to post details on 10 of the Army's most-sought-after deserters — soldiers whose alleged rap sheets don't stop at leaving service without permission, and who could be a danger to the communities where they've taken cover.
What you need to know about the Army's newest tool to track down fugitives:
1. The talent pool. Of the nearly 1,400 soldiers with a desertion warrant, about 48 "fled to avoid prosecution of some of our most serious offenses," said John Hargitt, chief of OPMG's law enforcement branch. Members of that group may find their way into the public spotlight before Christmas, Hargitt said in a Nov. 13 interview.
2. Evil evals. At launch, plans call for the site to list the top 10 offenders, compiled using "a matrix based off of what the charges are," Hargitt said. "A murderer would be on top of the list, a shoplifter would be at the bottom."
The main focus of the site will be to track down those charged with violent crimes, he said, with the goal of removing potential repeat offenders from the general population.
3. Criminal profiling. Each entry will include a photo of the soldier along with basic demographic data — height, weight, hair color, etc. — the nature of the alleged offenses, and links and email addresses for citizens to report any information relevant to the case, either to the Army or to local police departments.
OPMG monitors the deserter list daily and expects to update the site frequently, Hargitt said — both for new additions and to remove those returned to Army control. That figure numbers "a couple a week," he said.
4. Why now? Officials have considered putting the list online for years, Hargitt said, but legal and technological hurdles slowed the program at various points. However, an Army directive signed Oct. 23 by Army Secretary John McHugh authorized its establishment and cleared the way for a late-2014 unveiling.
It's an exercise that furthers three goals, Hargitt said: increasing community awareness, allowing easy communication with civilian law enforcement and, ultimately, bringing more of the most-wanted offenders to justice.
5. Spreading the word. The website will be linked from the OPMG's public page (www.army.mil/opmg) when it launches, Hargitt said, and plans call for a presence on OPMG's Facebook and Twitter offerings.
The site will link to Army Criminal Investigation Command's existing "Wanted by CID" page, which lists unsolved cases in which Army agents hope information from the public can help track down unknown perpetrators. It'll also direct viewers to existing pages maintained by the Air Force office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.