With an old-school idea and a few modern twists, most of Houston's "Top Ten Most Wanted Gang Fugitives" have been captured within the past 100 days.
With their faces pushed through cyberspace and plastered on donated roadside billboards boards, the public was called on to anonymously go to their computers, smartphones or tablets to share online tips on the gangsters' whereabouts.
And apparently they did.
Six gangsters were nabbed in the Houston area, including reputed robbers and home invaders. An accused drug trafficker was apprehended in Mexico.
It is social networking at its finest," said Larry Karson, a retired Customs Service agent who is a criminal justice lecturer at the University of Houston -Downtown. "It is simply an extension from John Walsh's 'America's Most Wanted,' a continuation of it in the 21st century."
Among the highest profile fugitives to be captured is Raul Madrigal, affiliated with the Houstone Tango Blast, who is accused of leading a cocaine-trafficking organization.
He was arrested in Mexico in May and has not yet been sent back to the United States.
As Madrigal roamed Mexico, presumably out of the reach of American authorities, pictures were posted on a MySpace page that showed him on the beach, soaking in a giant bathtub of bubbles and hanging out in nightclubs.
U.S. authorities confiscated an array of his expensive toys, including such luxury cars as a Bentley, Maserati, Hummer and BMW.
Houston Police Capt. Dale Brown, in charge of the Gang Division, said there are 10,000 documented gang members in Houston and the surrounding counties, and more than 200 gangs.
"There is a gang presence in basically every part of our city and surrounding counties," he said. "There is no such thing as, gang members are only hanging out in the inner city. For years now they have spread out into the suburbs and the rural regions."
The public now has at their fingertips the wanted posters of Houston's most sought gangsters on the law-enforcement website, stophoustongangs.org. They can, and have, left real-time tips leading police or federal agents right to fugitives.
Authorities in turn post status reports to let tipsters know what happened, including whether an arrest has been made or more help is needed. As soon as one "Top Ten" fugitive is captured, another moves onto the list.
"When your picture is put up, and you are aware of it, it means you have to go underground," said Karson, of the University of Houston-Downtown. "Depending on the level of the criminal, it might be from someone moving out of the neighborhood or going on the road and living in campsites and hoping not to get spotted."
Since mid-April, authorities at HPD, the FBI, and other agencies behind the website have singled out one member of "Top Ten" for extreme online and billboard attention.
Clear Channel Outdoor has donated spots on several billboards.
Since the the Top 10 program was launched, visitors to the website, which includes a wealth of information on gangs, have soared, leaving 430 tips on gang activity in a recent 90-day period, authorities said.
Brown, the HPD captain, said people who previously have been hesitant to offer information on gang members due to fears of retaliation should find more comfort in the website's anonymity.
"The public, the citizenry have the information we need to solve crimes, to identify the bad guys, to help locate and arrest them," he said. "Somebody out there knows who these people are."