How this weekly bingo game is catching criminals in Flagler County
Sheriff's 'Fugitive Friday Bingo' game videos viewed thousands of times
FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Every Friday, Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly stands alongside his Fugitive Unit's Cpl. Scott Wetherhold in a conference room at the Flagler County Courthouse and plucks an unlucky number from a former lottery machine.
With a green banner bearing the Sheriff's Office logo hanging behind him, Staly looks into the camera in front of him, turns on the fan that blows balls around inside the clear plastic casing and speaks.
"I'm Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly. It's time for this week's edition of Fugitive Friday Bingo," Staly said.
The number that flies to the top of the machine is Staly's Fugitive of the Week.
"Unlucky No. 7 is Kenneth Riker," Staly said. "He's wanted by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office for an order to take into custody. So this is a drug user, drug abuser. We want to put him in the Green Roof Inn."
The sheriff finishes his video message with a motivational reminder to turn in Riker.
"You could be eligible for a reward up to $5,000," Staly says with a smile.
The video is then posted to YouTube and the Sheriff's Office Facebook page, where it will be viewed thousands of times.
"Hey, if that gets us to tips, I'm all for it," Staly said. "We've profiled 56 people since we started this, apprehended 31 of them."
Some Fugitive Friday Bingo videos have been viewed more than others.
Staly's Christmas edition clip has been watched almost 3,000 times.
Staly opened his Christmas edition with the following holiday greeting "Merry Christmas, fugitive dirt bags!"
The July 4 edition of Fugitive Friday Bingo features Staly in a George Washington costume crossing -- not the Delaware -- but a canal in a rowboat.
"Turn in a dirt bag, get paid, happy July 4th everyone!" Staly said.
Staly agreed the bingo game is a gimmick, but insisted it's getting results and helping protect the community.
"Overall crime in Flagler County is down 22 percent since 2017. Our violent crime was down 16.3 percent, our property crime was down 24 percent. When (you}) add it all together, it's down 22 percent overall at a time when our community is growing," Staly said.
But is the game over the top?
"I've never had anyone tell me that," Staly said. "I've had a lot of people come up to me and tell me they saw it and they loved the Fugitive Friday Bingo."
Staly said a 7-year-old boy and his mom recently stopped him on his way out of a local Walgreens.
"This young man piped up and said, 'I love that fugitive thing you do on Fridays. I watch it every Friday before I go to school,'" Staly said. "It tells me we're reaching from young kids to adults."
Staly said Wetherhold is also getting recognized regularly from the videos.
Wetherhold said the staff at a motel knew exactly who he was and why he was there -- to arrest a fugitive.
"As soon as I walked in, the people immediately recognized me and asked if we were there for a fugitive apprehension, and they got so excited," Wetherhold said. "I showed them the picture and one of the ladies took me down the hall and I said, 'Hold it, I'm supposed to do that'"
Another time, the fugitive himself recognized Wetherhold.
"I just kinda waved at him and he looks back at me and goes, 'Hey, you're the Fugitive Bingo guy,'" Wetherhold said. "He goes, 'I have a warrant?' I go, 'Yes, you do!' He goes, 'Oooooh.'"
Staly said the inspiration for Fugitive Friday Bingo came from Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey's Wheel of Fugitive, which has been featured on national television.
Ivey has since retooled his segment and now calls it "Fishing for Fugitives."
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