Putting a new spin on catching bad guys

By Patricia Meade

The wheel is about the size seen at church festivals.

YOUNGSTOWN — What better for the Mahoning Valley — with a historic love of gambling — than a game show of sorts that offers prize money for the capture of bad guys.

The Wheel of Justice is set to start spinning next month. Each week, mugshots of six fugitives wanted for felony crimes in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties will be attached to the wheel and spun.

If you know the whereabouts of the person the pointer lands on, call Crime Stoppers at (330) 746-CLUE and win $200. The other five fugitives are worth $100 each.

An Internet search shows Wheel of Justice started on WKRC, a TV station in Cincinnati, and spread to other communities, such as Houston, Texas, and Jacksonville, Fla.

“I think this fits Youngstown like a glove because of our gambling history,” Detective Sgt. Chuck Swanson, Crime Stoppers of Greater Youngstown coordinator, said with a chuckle. “It’s like a roulette wheel — I think it will take off.”

Swanson said local TV stations turned down the pitch to air Wheel of Justice, but news radio WKBN 570 agreed to the concept. Kickoff is tentatively set for 10 a.m. Feb. 4 and, to celebrate, the fugitive featured that week will be worth $500, he said.

“It’s so cheesy, it’ll work,” Swanson said. “When tipsters give a location, we’ll go and make the arrest. Whoever calls in first with the location wins.”

Swanson said after the fugitive is selected each week, the radio station will post the six photos on its Web site.

As with the Crime Stoppers weekly feature of unsolved crimes that offer rewards, prize money for Wheel of Justice will come from donations.

Bill Sweeney of Sweeney & Associates in Boardman, an advertising/design company, said the wheel is about the size seen at church festivals. Sweeney, a member of the Crime Stoppers board of directors, had his company handle the wheel’s artwork.

All the work needed to construct the wheel was donated, he said.

Swanson said he envisions having “guest spinners,” such as Mayor Jay Williams.


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