A few weeks ago, the highways on the border between Mexico and the United States were filled with unusual posters with the faces of several drug traffickers from the Sinaloa cartel, persecuted by the North American DEA and a reward of 45 million dollars in exchange for information. These ‘Wanted’ posters, apparently archaic in the Internet age, will also be seen in Spain shortly, although generally more focused on the search for missing persons than drug lords.
Spain registers 20,000 disappearances on average per year but only 7% are considered high risk
The Ministry of the Interior has reached an agreement with five companies to distribute specific messages with information about people or police investigations that require citizen collaboration through digital posters on public roads. These messages will generally be used to locate missing persons, but can also include information, for example, about unaccounted-for criminals.
This means that in Spain, as is quite common in other countries such as the United States or much of Latin America, citizens will be able to see the ‘Wanted’ posters on the street, which until now were part of an imaginary that was more cinematographic than real. .
“It is a complementary measure, not exclusive, that is added to other channels, such as social networks,” explain sources from the Interior, who affirm that they are going to implement this system based on the experience of countries, mainly the United States, that “They have shown that the dissemination of these messages in large transport hubs, airports and train stations, reaches a great projection and is very effective in cases of international disappearances.”
The companies that have signed the agreement are Ipunto, Clear Channel, Exterion, Redext and Gran Screen, owners of digital advertising monoposts throughout the entire Spanish territory, both in cities and on national and regional highways, also in train stations, buses or airports, and they will bear the costs of reproducing these messages.
In them, according to the agreement that this newspaper has agreed to, will appear “information that is considered necessary and useful for the prevention, detection, investigation of criminal offenses, including protection and prevention against threats against public security.”
They will be messages that may contain the day and place where the event that is being investigated occurred; name, age and sex of the person concerned; a current photograph and full physical description of the person, as well as the clothing the person was wearing on the day they were last seen; medical and health data or additional information about, for example, the vehicle she used.
The message, the agreement details, “will include the telephone number or numbers for receiving citizen collaboration calls and, where appropriate, an email address or other channel suitable for receiving information”, or if applicable , “a phrase informing citizens of the possible danger of the situation in the event of direct contact with the person concerned”. Finally, “it will have graphic and/or text elements that allow it to be easily identified as an official content alert.”
According to what was signed, these posters will not entail any cost for the portfolio directed by Fernando Grande-Marlaska: “This agreement does not entail any economic consideration. The spaces destined to the disclosure of information object of this agreement will be offered by the entities, as long as they are available, and free of charge”. According to portfolio sources, the companies have agreed to do so for free “as a contribution to society in exceptional situations.”
Although the agreement is not exclusively designed to warn of the disappearance of certain people and ask for help in their search, it will be one of its main uses, according to Interior sources.
In March, the Ministry signed a strategic plan on missing persons, the first of its kind in Spain, which is endowed with almost 2.3 million euros and seeks to “prevent the disappearance of people, as well as mitigate or reduce the suffering produced by this phenomenon in relatives and close friends”.
Since 2010, when the database on Disappeared Persons and Unidentified Human Remains and Corpses (PDyRH) was launched, “a total of 219,425 reports of missing persons have been registered in Spain, with an annual average that fluctuates between 20,000 and the 30,000 cases reported and investigated by the Security Forces and Corps”. According to the National Center for the DisappearedDuring 2021, 22,285 total complaints were reported, mainly in Las Palmas (3,446); Madrid (2,205) and Barcelona (2,179).
It will also serve to request citizen collaboration in cases of people who have escaped from Justice, both in Spain and in other countries. The Ministry has a collaboration agreement, for example, with the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, with the operation ‘Most Wanted’, through which the British authorities provide information on criminals who have links in Spain or who they suspect have moved here.
They are mainly suspected of homicide, drug trafficking or arms trafficking, most with ties to the Costa del Sol. Now, their faces will possibly appear on these posters, under the heading ‘Wanted’.