Authorities can learn from the capture of last week after 16 years as a fugitive, noted criminologist Jack Levin said Wednesday.
Trust the public to help, said Levin, a Sharon resident.
Levin said a tip line can inspire "a concerned citizen who calls the FBI or the local police, not for the money but for the sense of empathy for the victims."
"I think we have to trust the public. I've seen too many cases where law enforcement holds information close to the vest, and I understand why. There are perfectly rational reasons for doing so in certain cases," said Levin, the Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, where he co-directs its Center on Violence and Conflict and teaches courses in the sociology of violence and hate.
"If you're going to err, err in the direction of trusting the public. So many of these fugitives are caught thanks to a tip."
A tip to the FBI led to
Levin said the October 2002 Washington, D.C. sniper case was solved thanks to someone who reported seeing "the snipers' van parked in a rest area off (Interstate) 95."
The "America's Most Wanted" TV show has "solved hundreds of cases involving fugitives based on tips from the public," said Levin, who has written extensively about mass murder, although, he noted, he is not an expert on organized crime.
"I do really believe we're so skeptical about it that we think have to offer a big reward," he said.
Levin said that "I don't necessarily blame the FBI for the incredibly long period of time 'Whitey' Bulger was on the loose."
Eluding authorities is "relatively easy," he said, "especially if you have money, and you have friends, or allies who agree with your politics."
"Many criminal figures have stayed on the loose for a long time," Levin said.
Convicted 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph, for example, eluded authorities for five years, Levin noted.
Rudolph was in North Carolina, where "he had lots of help, apparently, from local residents who agreed with his politics," Levin said.
"Look at how long it took us to get Osama bin Laden, but we knew he was in the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan," the professor said.