Brevard sheriff's 'Wheel of Fugitive' videos go viral, get results

'It's a very unique approach to targeting criminals,' Sheriff Wayne Ivey says

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Every Tuesday evening on the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, Sheriff ​Wayne Ivey spins a large, green wheel adorned with stickers that he affectionately calls his "Wheel of Fugitive."

"It's a very unique approach to targeting criminals," Ivey said.

The sheriff said he knows the key to the success of the videos - and the reason they are shared tens of thousands of times - is fun.

"And sometimes mixing a little humor in there does it," Ivey told News 6.

The wheel contains pictures of wanted fugitives, absconders, convicted criminals and suspects in all types of crimes. The mug shot that the wheel lands on becomes the "fugitive of the week."

Ivey said the video is shared repeatedly as soon as it is posted.

"It's becoming more successful than any of us could have hoped for," Ivey said. "Anywhere I go people say something about that they watch the Wheel of Fugitive."

Within minutes, the Sheriff's Office gets tips from family, friends, even the fugitive himself or herself.

Ivey said the fugitives are usually arrested within days, sometimes hours, even minutes.

"I can tell you 76 percent of criminals we arrest knew they were on the Wheel of Fugitive," Ivey said. "Their inner circle, family, friends, co-criminal whatever it is, had already alerted them, or they watched it themselves. They show up at the jail and say, 'Hey, I saw myself on the wheel, I want to turn myself in.'"

Recently, Comedy Central's “The Daily Show” poked fun at Ivey's Wheel of Fugitive.

"A little piece of magic I discovered on Facebook!" Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj said as he played a clip from the Facebook page. "The Brevard County Sheriff's Office makes a Facebook game show about catching criminals."

News 6 asked Ivey if he appreciated the humor.

"I thought it was absolutely hilarious!" said Ivey. 

Ivey brushed it off when “The Daily Show” host joked that law enforcement should take itself more seriously.

"I look at it this way, if you don't want to be on that wheel, don't commit a crime, don't target our citizens, don't come to Brevard County and commit a crime because you're going to go to jail," he said.

During a special episode of "Wheel of Fugitive - Ladies' Night," Ivey danced during the opening song.

"Yes it's ladies' night, Oh hey, everybody, I'm Sheriff Wayne Ivey!" the sheriff said as the music faded.

"These guys kinda threw me for a loop with ladies' night; I didn't know that one was coming!" Ivey said, referring to his production team. "I think there's a touch of humor mixed into it. I tell everyone everything we do we try and have fun with it."

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office Facebook page has one of the biggest followings of any law enforcement agency in Central Florida. A recent "Wheel of Fugitive" segment was viewed more than 8,800 times.

"Our Facebook page just on its own reaches 83,000 people," Ivey said. "On most weeks, we're reaching 400,000 to 500,000."

Ivey said the beginning of the video displays all of the fugitives on the wheel so viewers don't just see the one that the wheel lands on. Ivey said the rest of the fugitives on the wheel are usually picked up within two weeks of the video appearing on Facebook.

Ivey is proud of his creation but more proud that his citizens are sharing the videos and helping catch criminals.

 “I think the community sees that as well and says ‘Wow we're actually engaged in getting someone off the street that's committing a crime but also getting somebody in the right direction,’" said Ivey. "This program is a force multiplier. Rather than an agency of 1,500 people out looking for them, we have a community of 600,000 out looking for them."

Ivey said the studio where he records the videos was paid for by drug forfeiture money and the wheel was hand-built by a friend.

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