I was just reading an article in my local paper about a guy in Florida who re-packages mug shots (which are in the public domain and free to use) into a publication he calls "Busted". He just launched the Minnesota edition and is now in 12 markets.
Crooks get face time in new mag | StarTribune.com
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| Crooks get face time in new mag |
BILL WARD, Star Tribune
Traditionally, most suspects have little reason to smile when posing for a mug shot after an arrest -- at least until now.
A new magazine, Busted, plasters hundreds of local arrestees' mugs throughout its pages every week. Actually, maybe that's not worth smiling about, even if some of the alleged perps find no shame in making it into the magazine.
"I've had a couple of people who came in and grabbed the magazine and pointed themselves out," said Madalena Ferreira, manager of the Bobby & Steve's service station in Minneapolis, one of the places where Busted is sold.
Other suspects are not too pleased with the exposure, said publisher and editor Ryan Chief.
"I'd be lying if I said we hadn't gotten threatening phone calls, but usually they're not so much threatening as upset," Chief said. "They don't realize that the easiest way to stay out of there is to not get arrested."
The suspects pictured in Busted have been arrested on all kinds of charges: fleeing a police officer, domestic assault by strangulation, kidnaping, even something called "lurk with intent."
All mug shots are public information, so getting them from the websites of police and sheriff's departments is easy. The hard part, Chief said, is paring down all the possibilities for publication.
"I wish we could publish a paper that's big enough to run every picture. Sometimes we just randomly choose, but for the most part it's felonies," he said. "If you have a speeding ticket, you're not going to be in Busted. But if you're arrested with Type A drugs or you beat up your wife, you're going to make it in there. The murders and the rapes, they're all in there."
But amid the more hardened-looking criminals in a June issue of Busted are some fresh-faced marijuana-possession arrestees and one poignant tale. Reached by phone this week, a local woman arrested for theft did not know her photo had been in Busted. The woman, who asked not to be identified for this article, said she had accidentally walked out of her pharmacy without paying for a prescription at the front counter.
'Whatcha gonna do?'
Chief, a longtime devotee of the Fox TV mainstay "Cops," launched the magazine about two years ago in his hometown of Ocala, Fla. His motivations, in no particular order: public service, profits and piquing his curiosity.
"I always liked to read the police beat in the local paper," he said, "and I found that there wasn't much information in there about who was arrested and why."
He said he also wanted citizens to know who has been breaking the law.
"We've had people who had no idea a sex offender was living two or three doors down," Chief said. "We had a store clerk in Salt Lake City finger someone, and she got a $30,000 reward.
"And there was a robbery in Michigan where the guy wasn't wearing a mask, and a woman picked him out of our magazine."
Chief's timing proved impeccable for a country that seemingly can't get enough of shows such as "America's Most Wanted" and "Dog the Bounty Hunter." Americans clearly are fascinated by people getting busted; witness the traffic snarls caused by rubberneckers gawking when an officer has pulled over a car.
Police aren't interested
For now, the Twin Cities iteration of Busted is available for $1 in about 250 retail outlets. Chief wouldn't disclose sales figures but said the Twin Cities ranks fifth in sales among Busted's 12 markets.
Ferreira said her store sells about 150 copies a week, many to "people who knew they had friends in there and wanted to get one."
Not among the customer base are the men and women who corralled the suspects.
"The people who are interested in this are the ones who watch those crime shows," said Minneapolis Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia. "But we aren't interested. We see this every day. We know these people."
Each issue also includes a few local true-crime stories that could be dubbed "Stupid People Tricks": two-page spreads of particularly inebriated-looking DWI suspects and registered sex offenders, and another page for "Minnesota active fugitives."
The back cover contains the spread "Beauty vs. Beast" -- attractive women and menacing-looking men -- atop an ad offering 8- by 10-inch glossies of any suspect for $49.95. Chief said he has sold a few hundred of those this year.
"Strangely enough, rarely do people order photos of themselves," he said. "It's usually an ex-girlfriend or sometimes a co-worker or classmate, mostly on the lighter side, like 'Hey, I wanted to save this stupid moment in your life.'"